Flip on the tap and you get a stream of safe and clean water. It seems simple, but a lot goes on behind the scenes to get that safe water to your home.

The Town of Monument Water Department provides drinking water to about 1,400 people every day. They recently completed a $950,000 upgrade to their Wells 4/5 Operations, resulting in an easier and more efficient process and improved water quality and output.

During the renovations, an automated water treatment system was installed, which will eliminate the need for an on-site water operator, improving efficiency and reducing costs. The entire building was gutted, and over the course of nine months, new equipment with updated technology was installed. Later this year, the department plan to improve the roof and insulation.

Director of Public Works Thomas Tharnish has worked at the plant since 2000. According to Tharnish, the Wells 4/5 Water Plant was built in the late 1980s and was due for an upgrade. Prior to the upgrade, the system was operated manually, which was a time-consuming process. It took public works employees an hour and a half to prepare the system, then they had to backflush the filters every four hours. The system is automated now, and improvements in the filter media require backflushing only every 24 hours.

Electric valves that are easier to control were also installed, and a new touchscreen at the plant entrance allows public works employees to easily monitor and control the system. Near the touchscreen are meters that track the levels of chlorine and the pH of the water. Operators went through training sessions to learn how to utilize the new technology.

“It’s a lot quieter in here too, the old pumps were pretty noisy,” Tharnish said during a tour of the updated facility on Friday.

Four wells near the building provide ground water for the plant, which is cleaner to start with, compared to surface water, Tharnish said. However, the well water has a high concentration of iron and manganese that needs to be filtered. Water is pumped from the wells into a large tank that holds about 2,800 gallons. From the holding tank the water is pumped into the plate settler, which houses a series of baffle plates. Polymers and a chemical called permanganate are used to help clump the iron and manganese so the elements get heavier and settle to the bottom of the plate settler. The resulting slurry-like mixture in the bottom is pumped via pipes to a tank outside that drains into the Palmer Lake sewer system. The remaining water in the plate settler now has most of the iron and manganese removed and is pumped into another holding tank where it is referred to as “settled water.”

Tharnish went on to explain that the settled water is pulled out of the holding tank with two booster pumps (one is a backup pump) and is transferred to a large, white vessel that contains a filtering agent called green sand. Green sand has an affinity for manganese and the water is forced under pressure through the sand that traps the manganese. Screens prevent the sand from draining down the tank. This filter cleans up the leftover manganese so it is also known as a polishing filter. After about 24 hours, a pressure differential develops in the tank, requiring backflushing of the system. Backflushing gets rid of the manganese deposits that are then sent through another pipe to the outdoor tank that drains into the sewer system. Tharnish said the backflushing process used to take an hour and a half, but is now faster and automated.

The plant also includes a small lab area where employees can perform tests on water quality and more. Anticipating growth along the Front Range and in the Tri-Lakes area, the plant can be expanded in the future to increase output.

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