If you're asked where exactly your water comes from, or where it goes.... do you know the answer? On July 13th 2011 17 people from the Telluride and surrounding areas joined Bill Goldsworthy, Stan Kierstzyn, and TNCC for a tour of the Mill Creek treatment facility and the Wastewater treatment facility to find out exactly that.
Mill Creek Plant, where approximately half of the water for Telluride is treated, is unique in that is currently undergoing a retrofit remodel in order to update the filtration process. They have successfully installed half of the new filtration "straws" or "Ultra Flex Membrane Filtration System" with holes only big enough to let H2O through. Bacteria, viruses, microbes, and particulates are too big to pass, which leaves our water clean and pure.
Even though Telluride is at the top of the watershed, conservation is of utmost importance because we do not have an unlimited supply of water. The Mill Creek Plant has the capacity to purify around 1 million gallons of water per day; although, depending on conditions this is not always possible. During high usage times like bluegrass or the holiday season these limitations on our water resources are sometimes tested.
The wastewater treatment facility is capable of treating waste from 21,812 people daily. The town of Telluride owns 65% of the plant capacity and Mountain village owns 35% of the plant capacity.
Treating wastewater begins with filtering out objects bigger than a quarter inch in diameter. Everything from shoes to pants to soccer balls have been found during this stage of filtration. Note to Public: pay attention to what goes down your drains and garbage disposals; even organic materials like coffee grounds and eggshells can be nuisances.
Biosolids, or the processed solids left over from water treatment, can be used as a potent fertilizer because of its high nitrogen concentration. This resource is currently being outsourced to Montrose County.
The Waste Water Treatment Plant has made a concerted effort to reduce energy consumption. They have installed a solar array on the roof covering around 10% of the plants energy usage, and a geothermal heating/cooling system that has reduced their heating bills a whopping $30,000 a year.
In addition to water being a limited resource that deserves conservation efforts, there is an additional carbon footprint inherent along water use. This "Watergy" stems from energy that is used to extract, treat, convey, heat, and then treat water for a second time. If you would like to learn more about watergy, our town and counties water usage, and ideas for conservation check out this presentation put together by our very own energy specialist Kim Wheels: WATER CARBON FOOTPRINT
Also, you can learn more about the wastewater treatment facility online at: http://www.telluride-co.gov/index.aspx?page=236
A special thanks to Bill and Stan for showing us around and answering our questions!
Photo Credit: Teddy Newmyer