The Macon Water Authority (MWA) in Georgia recently completed about $51 million worth of long overdue rehab work on its two wastewater treatment plants. A key change in the rehab was how MWA handles dewatering, moving away from belt presses to a rotary press product.
Ray Shell, MWA’s assistant executive director, was interested in a rotary press product from Fournier he heard about, but he says MWA operators were hesitant at first about a change from what they were used to. That’s where the approach MWA took to pre-project planning helped a great deal. A list was created with all the equipment and processes being considered along with the manufacturers of those various options. From there, another list was created containing treatment plants using any of those products that were within reasonable driving distance of Macon. Over the span of about three months Shell — alongside small teams of four to six different operators and maintenance workers — took field trips to 34 different plants to get a firsthand account of their colleagues’ experience with the equipment and processes they were considering.
“When we had something we were really focused on, we wanted our operators talking directly to folks actually using it,” Shell says. “We kept records. We took notes and pictures of every visit we made. That was a big part of our success.”
And in the case of the Fournier rotary presses, initial operator reluctance quickly turned into an easy sell.
“We visited the first plant that had it in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and when I walked into the room it was impressive,” Shell says. “The press room is usually a nasty environment. It requires a lot of cleanup. But when I walked into this rotary press room, they had their break table in there and their drink machines. That’s where they ate lunch, right in the same room as their presses. And there was no odor. Nothing. It was all enclosed and highly automated. It didn’t need constant attendance when running. We’ve been very pleased with it. That was a tough one because operators were reluctant to see a change from the belt presses. But that was one of the benefits of these tours. When people come to work for a utility and become operators, more than likely that’s the only wastewater plant they’ve ever been in. They don’t know other plants, other processes and other systems.”