By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 12/1/19
The success of any operation depends on its employees. For Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Jacob Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility (JHWWTF), the tiniest workers needed a rehabilitated home providing just the right conditions for them to do their job. “As part of the wastewater treatment process,” explains John Mrozek, deputy director Wastewater, “we cultivate specialized microorganisms (Mesophilic Bacteria) that have the important job of breaking down solids in wastewater. They also produce the methane gas, which is now fueling our new Co-Generation units, producing electricity to power this facility, and is expected to save the City of Las Cruces more than $200,000 every year in electric bills.”
This year, however, there was a glitch: after 30 years of service, one of the homes for the microorganisms started to leak heat. The home - aptly called the “digester”- needed a new heating water jacket, which acts as a heat exchanger, keeping the microorganisms warm enough to do an optimal job.
The anaerobic microorganisms thrive in temperatures between 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking down and “cooking” the wastewater solids, destroying harmful pathogens and bacteria, and reducing it to a sludge mixture that is relatively odor-free, dewaterable, and ultimately available as Class A+ Biosolid Compost, which is given back free to the community. But because of the leak, it wasn’t warm enough for the microorganisms to do what they do best: digest. When they are cold, they get sluggish.
With the new heating water jacket now in place, the primary digester is back to reducing and stabilizing the volume of sewage sludge produced at the JHWWTF, handling approximately 438,000 gallons of the facility's wastewater solids at all times.
The Biosolid Compost is available free in 5-gallon buckets from the JHWWTF and by the truckload by appointment; it can aid in boosting the production of area farms, yards, and gardens. LCU gives out 250 tons of the Class A+ Biosolid Compost every year. For more information call (575) 528-3597.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Deputy Director Wastewater, John Mrozek, stands on top of the new piping connected to the heating water jacket. This is where methane is pumped from the digester and fuels the Co-Generation system that helps power the JHWWTF.