When one hears the term "open house," a wastewater treatment plant isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But Rhinelander's water and wastewater superintendent Tim Kingman said the practice isn't all that unusual.
The city will be holding such an event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. During that time, the new wastewater treatment plant on Highway 17 South will be open to the public for tours guided by city wastewater department staff.
Kingman said he's been a part of several open houses for wastewater treatment plants during his former occupation as an engineer.
Rhinelander's open house won't be fancy, he said, just guided tours. Now that the facility has been up and running for more than a year and things are operating smoothly, Kingman said he thinks it's important that the public has a chance to see the city's multi-million dollar investment. Approximately half of the $24 million project was funded by federal stimulus dollars. The rest is on city utility users.
"I would encourage everyone to come out and see this," Kingman said. "If they can see how all this works, they can see where their money goes every time they pay a water or sewer bill."
The open house, Kingman said, is an opportunity for people to better understand the value of such a facility since the wastewater treatment process isn't a very visible piece of city operations.
"What I've consistently seen in the past (at other open houses) is people are impressed with the expertise and work that goes into a facility like this," Kingman said.
The tours will also allow people to see the process behind creating a product that they may one day be able to use in their yards and gardens.
The new plant produces a byproduct that is referred to as a Class A biosolid, a cake-like substance that is much more environmentally friendly than the liquid byproduct the old plant produced. In fact, a Class A biosolid can have a functional purpose as a fertilizer.
Kingman said the city is currently in the process of submitting data to the Department of Natural Resources that will eventually give the city the permitting necessary to lessen the disposal restrictions on the plant's byproduct.
"Then we would consider our options," Kingman said. "The product is a worthwhile commodity that may have marketable value."
Those options could be selling it to landscapers and others in need of a fertilizer product. Or it could be made available to the public.
If people want to see the potential value of the product, they can look at the site of Rhinelander's old wastewater treatment facility on Boyce Drive, Kingman said. During the restoration of that site, the new plant's byproduct was incorporated into the soil. Because the site had limited public access at the time, the city was allowed to dispose of the product there.
"We had a really good experience," Kingman said. "The grass took off quickly (at the site)."
Kyle Rogers may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2012
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