City focuses on new wastewater treatment plant

Alisa Boswell

The next big project in Portales may mean cleaner water, according to Portales City Manager Tom Howell.

The city recently signed a contract with Smith Engineering of Albuquerque for building a new wastewater treatment plant in Portales.

Howell said city officials estimate the new plant will be in the same location as the current one and will be a smaller facility, which will run more efficiently due to better quality technology.

He said the beginning step in the contract is finding what kind of plant the city will build.

“I think it’s going to have an impact on the community directly in a couple of ways,” Howell said. “The effluent (water) will be cleaner than what we have now so it will have a less negative impact on the land we are using. It will have less nitrogen and less bacteria.”

Howell said there are three classes of water cleanliness for city water and Portales is currently at the lowest, class three water. He said the new technology the city plans to bring into the new plant will raise Portales’ water status to class one.

“What will happen is Smith Engineering will study what types of wastewater plants there are to build,” Howell said. “What that does, is gives us three options, so we can study them then say, ‘OK, this is the one we want. How are we going to build and how much is it going to cost?’”

Howell said the goal of city officials is to build the most efficient and easy-to-operate plant that is capable and will deliver the desired results, which is water irrigation for public places, such as parks and school yards .

He said class three water is used mainly for crop irrigation but at class one, the city will be able to provide irrigation for more outdoor venues.

Howell said after Smith Engineering has found different options for types of wastewater plants, which provide class one water technology, they will present the city council with a Preliminary Engineering Report.

“Then,” he said, “we’ll have to sit down and start looking at rates and how to get the money for it. Then, our engineers can start the design.”

Mike Stroik, lead operator for the Water and Wastewater Departments in Portales, said city officials estimate the plant will be up and running within three years.

He said they hope to start construction in six months to a year.

“We’re going to a system that’s a 40-years newer way of treating water,” Stroik said.

Stroik said Portales is currently using a water-treating method that originated in the 1970s.

He said he and other officials will be visiting modern wastewater plants with Smith Engineering over the next two years.

“Once we get over there and see the way things are done, I think we’re going to wish this was done yesterday,” Stroik said. “We’re all going to be starting over with how to do things.”