MOUNDRIDGE — Moundridge Street and Wastewater Supervisor Mike Strausz was eager to show off the city's new wastewater treatment plant at an open house celebrating the facility's completion on Aug. 22.

Planning for the new plant began five years ago, with Strausz and others touring various facilities to determine what design would work best for Moundridge.

The city's previous wastewater plant was built in 1982.

"The old system was designed for about 1,500 residents and no industry," Strausz said.

Growth of homes and businesses in Moundridge had been slowly increasing until last year, when Strausz noted there were 75 new hookups added.

"That was way faster than we had historically grown," Strausz said.

With an eye to the future, the city looked to build an activated sludge pre-treatment plant that could accommodate more rapid growth.

"We'd outgrown what we had," Strausz said. "It was time to do something anyway."

The timing for the construction of a new wastewater facility was further optimized when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightened the restrictions on ammonia levels in 2017.

"That made it to where we couldn't comply," Strausz said.

Construction started in May 2018 on the new wastewater treatment plant, located at 2263 Arapaho Road. The $2.3 million facility began operating on June 17.

"This seemed like the best tool for making sure that we could do anything we needed to do," Strausz said.

The wastewater now goes through a process that screens out foreign material using an auger that dumps it directly into a large trash receptacle before piping it into an 18-foot deep aeration basin, through a clarifier and finally depositing the sludge into the city's existing 25 acres of lagoons.

"The fact that we already had those saved us a lot of money in the process," Strausz said.

The new facility can handle 1.5 million gallons of water per day and is designed to be easily expanded if needed down the road.

"This gave us the flexibility to handle more industry, if needed, and not go back to the taxpayers for more money," Strausz said. "...It gave us control of our own destiny rather than spending a bunch of money that wouldn't be good in a year if another manufacturer showed up."

Strausz pointed out several safety features that were added to the plant's design to reduce working hazards for city employees to the open house attendees.

One such feature is heat tape placed around the outer rim of the aeration basin, preventing it from freezing over in cold weather and needing to be cleared of ice.

"We tried to make the best decision, not just for us, but for the future," Strausz said. "...I think it'll serve its purpose for a lot of years."

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.