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Penn State Planning $46 Million Upgrade for Wastewater Treatment Plant

by on February 14, 2018 5:00 AM

As the University Area Joint Authority gets ready to start work on a $10 million odor control facility in College Township, Penn State is planning upgrades to the Centre Region's other wastewater treatment plant.

David Swisher, wastewater utility engineer for Penn State, gave an overview of the project, which will address capacity, aging infrastructure and other needs. this week to State College Borough Council. The plan will require a modification to the Centre Region's state-mandated Act 537 plan for wastewater management and ultimately the Centre Region Council of Governments will have to approve.

The Penn State treatment plant has been located off University Drive since 1913, and Swisher said the majority of components currently in use date to the 1950s and 1960s.

"It’s an aged infrastructure and that’s one of the goals of the plan, to address that aged infrastructure," Swisher said.

The project would be limited to the current footprint of the plant.

An average of 1.6 million gallons of water per day are treated at the plant. Projections show that steadily increasing and a special study in 2016 recommended increasing capacity to 3 million gallons. Flow comes almost entirely from University Park, with some from the College Heights area as well. Otherwise, all borough flow has been diverted to the UAJA plant since the 2006 Centre Region Act 537 plan update.

Upgrades to the Penn State plant are currently estimated at about $46 million, funded by the university, Swisher said. Among them are improving the effluent quality to what the Department of Environmental Protection terms  Class A reclaimed water.

"That will allow us to ultimately put that water back into the reclaimed water system and distribute that throughout campus for various [non-drinking] uses," Swisher said.

The plan also calls for renovating or replacing infrastructure that is near the end of its useful life and improving treatment and energy efficiency.

Improvements would be made for on-site safety for workers and visitors, and to expand educational and research opportunities.

"We also have a lot of faculty and students that conduct activities there for research," Swisher said. "We want to take opportunities as we look to upgrade our facility to help foster and promote additional educational and research opportunities."

A membrane bioreactor would be added as a secondary treatment process to help achieve the desired flow rate and other improvements. Swisher said several treatment options were considered. The membrane bioreactor was chosen, he said, for several factors, including its ability to produce high-quality effluent, maintaining operations during construction, efficiency and size -- it's small enough to be built on the existing footprint.

Other upgrades will address screening, grit removal, flow equalization, solids thickening and electrical and controls system. The project also will include odor control elements. Though the university plant hasn't experienced the same odor issues the larger UAJA plant has, several council members noted that there is sometimes a noticeable smell beyond the plant property.

Swisher said the plan will be publicly advertised in February and March, with a special study presented to COG for consideration in April. If  approved, design on the project will begin this year with phased construction taking place from late 2018 through 2022.

He also said the plans are consistent with the 2013 Centre Region Comprehensive Plan objectives related to to water conservation, water reuse and sustainability.

The Haskell Company of Pittsburgh was appointed in July 2017 by the Penn State Board of Trustees to design and build the project.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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