Village home to test of new sewer system

A Rochester-based environmental engineering firm is testing a new technology in the village of Whitehall that developers say has the potential to improve the efficiency of the wastewater filtration process.

A division of Trans Terra Technical Group (3TG), Flatline combines four separate steps on the front end of the wastewater process — grit removal, screening, flow equalization and clarification.

“It’s designed to be smaller and more efficient than a traditional wastewater treatment facility,” said Terry Wright, founder of 3TG and the Flatline process.

Wright received permission from the Board of Trustees earlier this spring to test the technology on one of the village’s pump stations on Skenesborough Drive, across the street from the Whitehall Volunteer Firehouse.

He said officials with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation suggested Whitehall as the location to test the unit.

The large blue tank, which resembles a small cargo container, is hooked to a pump that removes water from the sewer system. The water is filtered through the system and then returned to the sewers.

Wright said the pilot that is in use can filter between 30,000 and 60,000 gallons of wastewater each day.

A small trailer that serves as a sort of command center is parked next to the tank. Inside, operators can monitor the system and evaluate its performance.

A smaller, simpler unit has been tested in Guilderland.

“This is more about product development and determining the control logic. What works and what doesn’t,” Wright said.

Students from Clarkson University are conducting an independent validation of the technology in partnership with New York State to ensure that it works and is environmentally sound.

Students have been taking wastewater samples to determine the extent to which they have been filtered and Ashley Waldron said the process appears to be working.

Wright has been working on the project for four years.

Because the process combines multiple steps, it reduces the amount of equipment and labor that would otherwise be expended, resulting in fewer buildings, less maintenance, and lower energy consumption, Wright said.

He estimates the project will cost 15 to 25 percent less than a conventional wastewater treatment plant.

Traditionally, wastewater will flow from the water users, into the sewer, and on to the treatment facility where it passes through several sets of screens to remove solid materials that are in the water. Those materials, known as sludge, are disposed of, and the end result is water that is environmentally safe.

The entire process is very sensitive to the speed which water flows through the system. If there is too much speed, materials become “stapled” or lodged in the screen, and eventually have to be cleared.

But Wright says he has developed a technology that maintains a slower, more continuous or “flat” velocity that enables him to use a much finer screen.

The finer screen actually prevents materials from becoming lodged in the openings, limiting the number of times workers have to clear them.

He said they tested a 3 mm screen and it had to be cleared after less than a half-hour, while a much finer screen (smaller than .2 mm) went three days without being cleared.

The unit in Whitehall will continued to be tested for a few more weeks at which point Wright will use the data to determine if changes need to be made to the process. He said the next step is beginning the process of commercializing the technology and looking for investors.

He plans to present his findings to officials from New York City in September.

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