GR Now Treats Wastewater Lightly

February 22, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Over four years and $6 million in the making, the Grand Rapids metropolitan sewer system has completed its transition to an ultraviolet (UV) disinfection system at its wastewater treatment plant on Market Avenue.

The old system required the use of toxic chemicals during the final treatment stages of the city's wastewater.

Over the course of a year, the city would use 225 tons of chlorine and 110 tons of sulfur dioxide for this purpose.

The new system uses ultraviolet light to destroy the bacteria, viruses and other organisms in the treated wastewater before it is discharged into the Grand River.

According to the city, the new environmentally friendly method of treatment also is easier to use and eliminates the purchase, handling and storage of dangerous chemistry.

"For as long as we've been treating waste in Grand Rapids, we've been treating it in the last stage with chlorine and then neutralizing the chlorine with sulfur dioxide," said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.

"We've been introducing toxic chemicals into the process.

"Now when it's discharged into the Grand River, it's cleaner than the river water itself," he said. "I'd like to argue to our friends down in Grand Haven that we're improving the water quality."

The UV technology was not the only alternative investigated by city staff, according to Randy Fisher, assistant director of the Grand Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The technology underwent a nine-month testing period before being integrated into the Grand Rapids sewer system.

The new system will save $13,000 a year in operating costs.    

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