Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Add Latex Gloves to the List of Things Being Flushed

As more people use latex gloves during the coronavirus epidemic, more people are also flushing them down the toilet.

Sometimes it seems like, eventually, everything ends up getting flushed down a toilet.

First it was "flushable" wipes which are not so flushable. Then it was anti-septic wipes as people tried to disinfect their surfaces during the coronavirus epidemic.

Now, its gloves.

Remember, whatever you flush down the toilet, usually makes its way to the wastewater treatment plant, where it gums up the works.

That's why the Pottstown Borough Authority was prepared to spend up to $1 million to install a new screening system at the plant, to keep those unwanted items out of the treatment apparatus.

It came just in time.

The new screening equipment before installation at the 
Pottstown Wastewater Treatment Plant.
In the last four weeks since it was installed, the screen has caught "20 yards of rags, wipes, latex gloves, you name it," Brent Wagner, Pottstown's utilities director, told the authority during Tuesday night's borough authority meeting.

"For the first time we have no latex gloves or plastic in the clarifier," he said.

"I couldn't imagine what we'd be seeing if we didn't have that screen in place," he said.

"We were getting inundated with gloves, and we're still getting wipes," said Authority Manager Justin Keller.

Originally estimated at $1 million, Keller said Wagner and his crew figured out how to do much of the work of installing the screen equipment themselves to cut the cost almost in half.

"Once we got into the installation, there were some aspects we were not comfortable doing in-house, so we had to bring in a contractor," said Keller.

Nevertheless, the ultimate cost of installing the screen was about $300,000 less than if the entire job had been put out to bid, Keller said.

Another way in which the pandemic has affected operations at the sewer plant was the need to construct a barrier between the staff and drivers coming to the plant to empty their septic trucks.

"We had to shut down bulk drop-offs for three days while we built a little shed outside the control building for the drivers to use," Wagner said.

No Energy From Waste Anytime Soon

After an extensive exploration, the authority is stepping back from the idea of trying to extract energy from the waste processed at the plant to generate electricity to run the plant.

Last night's meeting was held online.
Engineer Josh Fox told the authority Tuesday night that the study his firm undertook found that it would cost more than $19 million to alter the plant to be able to produce electricity, which would only produce about $1 million a year in electric cost savings.

"It's a very big undertaking undertaking," Fox said.

There are a number of grants which might be accessed, but even with them, it would still cost the authority about $4.8 million "and that's with a lot of risks and assumptions, built into that number," said Fox.

"Everything would have to fall perfecting to get to that number," said Authority member David Renn. He said other projects, such as new water meters, should take precedence.

"It's really more of a want than a need," Authority Manager Justin Keller said of the project. The project will be shelved until the finances look more favorable.


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