Vader lauds its ‘miracle’ municipal wastewater system

By Amy Nile / The Chronicle (Centralia) | Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013 7:15 pm

Vader is boasting an innovative approach to wastewater treatment — at far below the cost the city was expecting.

Blue Array, a Vancouver-based company, last summer installed a containment sewer prototype that currently works along with the city’s existing lagoon system.

The result? A water system that’s functioning well and that residents of the small city can afford.

“It’s a miracle for the city of Vader,” City Councilor Kevin Flynn said. “It’s going to upset the apple cart, the way things are done.”

Blue Array CEO James Reilly said Vader’s system cost the company less than $400,000, not including research and development expenses. Reilly expects the cost of operations to range from $110,000 to $160,000 a year, depending on the community using it.

Vader has budgeted about $144,000 annually for sewer operations, according to City Clerk and Treasurer Jill Nielson.

Part of the price break is due to a Washington Department of Ecology initiative to develop more effective methods of treating waste water. Blue Array is using Vader as a test site and the project is being conducted under DOE supervision.

Reilly said Vader’s lagoon sewer system has been out of compliance with state regulations for years. For the first time in history, he said, Blue Array has developed a system that allows a community to return to compliance after consistently failing to meet requirements.

“So we’ve discovered something truly ground-breaking,” Reilly said. “We think this is so low-cost, we’ve solved the world’s water problem.”

David Knight, the DOE’s acting municipal unit supervisor, said the Vader system is still being tested and that whether or not it can meet the state’s regulations for wastewater treatment still needs to be determined. A particular concern, he said, are high-flow events in the winter months.

After a meeting with Vader representatives last week, Mayor Ken Smith said DOE officials will discuss the issue further and report back to the city.

Smith said the city will continue to respond to requirements of the new system as they emerge, balancing demands from state regulators with cost-effectiveness for Vader residents.

According to Flynn, traditional oxidation ditch sewer systems cost $9 million to $10 million and take one to two years to install. Other small cities without the Blue Array option, which takes about three weeks for installation, are looking at sewer bills doubling after upgrading systems.

Blue Array is now targeting other small communities — including several in Lewis County — to offer the wastewater treatment system for only the cost of operation, Reilly said. The company will make a presentation to the Toledo City Council, which is looking into options for its sewer system, on Aug. 19.

Blue Array previously tested its system in Ridgefield and has since refined the process for Vader. While it is too early to tell if Vader’s system will work long-term, Knight said, the department remains hopeful.

“We love to see the innovative spirit,” he said.