photos by Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

1. Ferndale Chief Waste Plant Operator Doug Culbert explains to Ferndale Mayor Jeff Farley, progress being made on the new facility.

2. New construction continues at the Wastewater Treatment facility.

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

When the new wastewater treatment plant is completed in Ferndale, it will be an environmentally beneficial state-of-the art facility. With the blessing of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the new facility will have a one-to-one discharge ratio, in other words - one gallon of treated effluent discharge for every one gallon of water in Francis Creek.

”This is unprecedented,” said Ferndale Chief Waste Plant Operator Doug Culbert. The original goal had been to get a discharge ratio of 10 to one, but based on existing data from the creek and its tributaries and in combination with the design of the new facility, the one-to-one ratio was approved. “There is only one other facility like ours in the state of California,” he said, and that is in the city of Colfax.

The new facility was designed by Aero-Mod Inc, based in Manhattan, Kansas. It was not the original plan for replacing the old wastewater treatment plant. Aero-Mod Inc. owner John McNellis paid a visit to Ferndale and talked with Culbert about the project.

”He (McNellis) asked me for 30 minutes of my time,” Culbert said, “and he sold me in the first five minutes (of our conversation).” Culbert then flew back to Kansas to visit two operating wastewater treatment plants designed by Aero-Mod Inc., and to tour their factory.

”They came up with a whole new design based on our particular situation,” Culbert said. “They figure out what kind of plant you need to get the (wastewater) treatment you want.” The benefits will be multiple, including a smaller footprint on the environment. “We will be using UV (ultra violet) for disinfection, which will significantly reduce and then completely eliminate the current use of chlorine (for that purpose).”

Another important aspect of the new design was the location of the new facility. The original plan was to rebuild on the old wastewater treatment site, and the new location at the head works site will allow the old plant to continue operating until the new plant is finished. This will also save electricity and piping construction.

After a groundbreaking ceremony in August 2010, the project is now close to the 50 percent completion mark. Current work includes pouring the concrete walls for the treatment basin, which will continue for the next three to four weeks. The new wastewater treatment facility will also include several offices and a computer monitoring system for the operation.

Culbert has been selected by the California Rural Water Association (CRWA) to receive the Operator of the Year award out of more than 950 applicants statewide. He will accept that award in Lake Tahoe at the CRWA Annual Expo.