When Craig Water and Wastewater Director Mark Sollenberger walks into work every day at the Craig Water Plant, the first thing he sees is a small plaque hanging on the wall.
That small plaque, however, represents an enormous amount of work and a big source of pride for Sollenberger and his staff.
Awarded by the Environ-
mental Protection Agency in 2008 and presented to Sollenberger at the Craig City Council meeting April 13 by Mayor Don Jones, the award is for upgrades made to the water plant from 2006 to 2008.
Craig was one of three cities in the nation to receive the award in 2008.
It recognizes the plant for upgraded technologies and sustainability.
But what Sollenberger is most proud of is not so much the advanced technology the plant uses to turn Yampa River water in to drinking water, but that he and his staff of four operators, one maintenance technician and Craig Public Works Director Bill Earley brainstormed and designed the upgrades they wanted.
“We picked the technology ourselves because we knew how much funding we had,” Sollenberger said. “We came up with what we felt would be the best design and then we went to the engineers and said, ‘Here is what we think. Can you do it for us?’”
The project was spurred after a state health department sanitary survey conducted in 2002 determined there were several deficiencies with the city’s water treatment plant.
The upgrades were funded by state grants and loans and totaled about $9 million.
The top upgrades the plant received include a new dissolved air flotation pretreatment system, an ultraviolet ray supplemental treatment process and increased water storage capacity.
With the new upgrades, the water plant meets or exceeds all state standards and guidelines for necessary water capacity and sanitation.
All told, the new upgrades have made the plant’s water much safer and faster in processing water, Sollenberger said.
A gallon of water from the Yampa River once took up to eight hours to be processed. Now the plant can treat the same gallon in less than two hours.
And the water hitting sinks in Craig is cleaner and safer than most bottled water, Sollenberger said.
When talking about the upgrades, which he said are “ahead of the curve,” Sollenberger can’t help but get excited.
And for good reason — the new dissolved air floatation pretreatment system is the only one of its kind on the Western Slope and one of four in the state.
Sollenberger and his staff chose the system because of the unique nature of the water in the Yampa River.
It works by introducing chemicals, which, when combined with the water, electrically charge and bond with dirt particles. Microbubbles of air then are pushed through the water and the particles float to the top of the tank and are slowly scraped away.
The new air flotation system is an improvement from the old system, which relied on dirt particles sinking to the bottom of the tank because the water in the Yampa River is cold most of the year making it harder for particles to sink.
The new upgrades also increased water storage capacities from six million gallons per day to 12 million gallons per day.
The “extremely high powered” ultraviolet treatment serves as a supplemental treatment process and has a “higher kill rate” on parasites such as giardia.
It also cuts down on some of the chlorine used to treat the water, which helps with the end taste, while still meeting state and federal sanitary guidelines.
The process reduces the amount of time water needs to be treated in the plant and is safer because chlorine gas is more hazardous to work with.
In a letter that accompanied the award, the EPA called the process “a prototype for future systems in Colorado.”
Sollenberger also takes pride in the fact the state department of public health nominated his plant for the federal award.
The letter from the EPA also said the plant “easily met the criteria of demonstrating leadership and innovation,” and “serves as an outstanding example of the best practices in protecting public health …”
Glenn Duzik, a plant operator, said seeing all of the hard work he and the rest of the staff put in to the upgrades was an honor.
“To get that kind of recognition … it’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “It recognizes that we are doing our job right.
“It makes you feel good that you are coming into a facility that is nationally recognized. I’m pretty proud of that.”