How this Oregon Vacation Destination Eliminated Aerator Maintenance and a Serious Employee Safety Hazard
Triplepoint pulls off a two-day installation of its lagoon aeration system in winning form!
The Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District is located in one of the most beautiful spots in the Pacific Northwest: Sun River, Oregon. Situated in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Sun River is a mecca for adventure-loving tourists who flock to the area almost year-round to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, golf, snow skiing, and snowmobiling.
Despite the flow of tourists, Sun River is largely rural, with a population of about 1,400. If you need anything special, an electrician or plumber for example, the city of Bend is roughly 20 miles down the highway.
In this pristine setting is the Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District, a non-profit service district regulated by ORS 450 and state DEQ regulations. Its facilities are sited on 480 acres acquired from the U.S. Forest Service and include three lagoons ranging in size from just under an acre to 13.5 acres plus two 50-acre irrigation fields planted with orchard grass. The District processes 90,000 gallons of sewage per day for 900 members of the community.
All in all, the Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District was as picture perfect as its community. There was just one problem. Its lagoons relied on 1970’s era surface aeration technology to keep things moving. As district manager Reed Campbell says, when the surface aeration system was installed over a decade ago, it was, in his words, “the cat’s meow.”
Three years ago, the surface aeration system was proving itself to be a real dog. Every other week, one of the units would stop working, requiring a system shutdown for repair. As they say in the business, a wastewater treatment facility doesn’t have odor problems until they get a phone call. And with such frequent shutdowns, the Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District was on the verge of a customer relations problem.
Though Campbell was not the district manager at the time, he was an employee and recognized the potential issue. “You can’t just shut down and expect business as usual. While you never want odors, it’s particularly unwanted in a tourism-driven area like ours. The constant breakdown of the surface aerators was a headache.”
Surface aerators, while widely used, have inherent issues that require twice-a-year routine maintenance. With five to ten aerators per pond, this quickly becomes a full-time job. And if the units become clogged and need additional maintenance, time and money quickly add up. “It was a drain on our time and labor costs,” Campbell says.
The District’s frequent maintenance issues posed another significant issue: a threat to employee safety, something Campbell took seriously. “The aerators float on the lagoon on pontoons and are secured to the shore with wire cables. Undulations of the lagoon wore through the cable sheaths which caused spark outs. The motors also quit working when they got clogged with rags or underwear. My operators would have to go out in a rowboat to fix the problem. The potential threat of live electricity was very spooky for them.”
Operators also disliked climbing onto the pontoons. “I’ve had to do this many times and I know how unstable the pontoons are. I’ve gotten my feet wet and let me tell you, no one wants to fall into one of our lagoons. And if you drop a tool, it’s gone for good,” says Campbell.
In 2017, the Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District had finally had enough and made the decision to upgrade its aerators. An industry contact suggested that they connect with Tom Daugherty, a regional sales manager with Triplepoint Environmental. After assessing the customer’s needs and issues, Daugherty recommended Triplepoint’s high-performing, bottom-up lagoon aeration technology.
Triplepoint Aeration: Designed for Hands-off Performance
“I immediately knew we could eliminate nearly all of their operating and maintenance issues—including operator safety concerns—with Triplepoint’s aerator,” Daugherty says. “This equipment is designed to stop clogging and fouling issues that plague these older, surface aeration systems and drive operators crazy.”
He adds, “These units are workhorses. You only have to pull them up once during a two- to five-year window for maintenance and then once every ten years for a more in-depth service. Customers like the Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District gain back a ton of time when they replace their old aerator tech with Triplepoint aeration.”
There are three distinct design elements in Triplepoint’s aerator that help keep the system running with little or no intervention other than routine annual maintenance. First, the aerator has anti-clogging, self-checked coarse and fine bubble diffusers that prevent a backflow of water and debris such as random rags into the aeration unit. Second, the fouling-preventive design positions the fine bubble diffusers nine inches above the bottom sediments to avoid fouling that plagues conventional fine bubble aerators.
Finally, Triplepoint’s aerator has membranes made of EPDM, an M-class synthetic rubber, that provide high Oxygen Transfer Efficiencies (OTE). These membranes are also self-cleaning, thereby lowering the risk of fouling that leads to diminished oxygen transfer over time as well as operational problems. And as bottom aerators, they put out more oxygen and require less energy to operate. The oxygen naturally rises on its own versus having to push the oxygen down, which requires more energy.
Another major plus? The blower unit and all of the electrical support resides on shore in a secure, dry shed. No rowboat required to service! “And that was the answer to their prayers,” Daugherty says.
The No-Wait, Turnkey, Two-Day Installation
The District wrote the purchase order for Triplepoint’s solution in 2019, but there was a stipulation: they wanted it installed in two days to minimize downtime. And the best time for installation was during the summer months, the high season for tourists.
Daugherty and the Triplepoint team didn’t blink an eye. “Once we have the engineering plan, the crew scheduled and everything ordered and onsite, we can install everything in two days—the aeration units, which are portable; air headers and lines, blower, control panel—without a problem. Not everyone can do this, particularly in rural areas where projects can drag out due to waiting on equipment or to get on an electrician’s schedule,” he explains.
Working hand-in-glove, the District and Triplepoint agreed on an installation date. Triplepoint engineers designed the header system and ordered the aeration equipment. Instead of building a shed for the onshore blower, the District purchased a Tough Shed from Home Depot and installed it on a pre-poured concrete pad. The electrician, one who has worked with the District in the past, was scheduled well in advance.
The Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District had its own assignments. The week before the switch to the new equipment, Campbell and his team disconnected all of the old aerators and pulled them out of the lagoons. They also did all of the trenching for the new equipment. Explains Campbell, “We wanted everything done in advance so once Triplepoint got here and put their feet on the ground, we didn’t stop working until we were done!”
Daugherty reports there were no headaches. At the end of the two-day marathon, it was time to go live. “We literally turned the switch and BOOM! The Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District was in business,” he says.
It’s Been 15 Months and All Systems Are Still Go
More than a year has passed since the Oregon Water Wonderland Sanitary District made the switch to Triplepoint’s aeration system. Hundreds and thousands of tourists have come, flushed, and gone with no impact on the District’s performance.
Campbell says Triplepoint has eliminated the long hours dedicated to keeping the District’s aerators operational and the associated labor costs. “We have not had to do anything maintenance-wise since the aerators were installed. Triplepoint has taken all of the fear out of maintaining our equipment. We’re extremely happy with our system!”
As for the rowboat, it’s been retired.