By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
The new Angels Camp wastewater treatment plant, about five months behind schedule and $110,000 over budget, should be fully operational by April or May.
So says City Engineer Gary Ghio, who adds that clean water has been running through the new system for about two weeks as a way to check that it's working properly.
He said the clean water run-through revealed the need for some minor adjustments and the crews are making those this week.
The next step, Ghio said, is to "seed" the reactors which separate the water from the sludge. Seeding putting bacteria-rich sludge into the new reactors should begin this week or next.
The reactors are large concrete tanks into which sewage is poured after the solids and paper products have been removed. The new reactor tanks replace an old aeration basin that served the city for nearly 30 years.
Ghio said the reactors do more efficiently what the city's old aeration basin did. The more advanced technology separates the water from the sludge, sending each to a different area of the plant for further treatment.
"Once we seed the plant and keep the bugs (bacteria) happy for two to four weeks so they're growing, we go to full operation," Ghio said.
The new wastewater plant, built on the two-to-three-acre site of the old sewer plant off Centennial Lane at the south end of Angels Camp, will be able to handle up to 400,000 gallons a day, and produce treated water clean enough for agricultural and golf course use.
Construction began in May 2001 on what was supposed to be a $4.8 million new wastewater treatment plant. But almost from the start, problems plagued the project.
The Darby Fire of September 2001 cut off water as construction was starting. And PG&E's bankruptcy slowed the installation of power needed for further construction.