Pueblo wins national award for its efforts to address algal pollution in waterways

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PUEBLO, Colo. – The City of Pueblo was nationally recognized for implementing the first full hydrocyclone/ammonia controlled nutrient removal process in the United States and for improvements to the James DiIorio Water Reclamation, according to a press release on Wednesday.

The city received the Water Environment Federation 2020 Project Excellence Award for its pioneering improvements that additionally saved over $20 million for taxpayers and increased capacities.

“From the continental divide to the Mississippi, our waterways are connected to each other. What happens in Colorado will impact the Gulf’s algae problems and I am happy to announce Pueblo is leading Colorado to reduce algal bloom,” said Mayor Nick Gradisar. “In addition, our wastewater team saved taxpayers over $20 million, which shows our team is doing everything it can to be environmental leaders while being great financial stewards.”

The City of Pueblo partnered with Brown and Caldwell, an engineering and construction firm, to develop a system of nutrient removal through aeration control and hydrocylone-base wasting process.

“We want to meet the Water Quality Control Division Discharge Permit requirements without adding additional costs for the citizens,” said Nancy Keller, Wastewater Director for the City of Pueblo. “We have a system now that protects aquatic life and improves the quality of our downstream communities.”

In 2012, the State of Colorado introduced new standards to reduce the algal growth and aquatic life impairments.  The first phase of reductions had to be met by April 2021 and the next phase of reductions will go into effect in 2027.

“Our success in this project allows the facility to earn credits with the Water Quality Control Division that will delay implementation of the 2027 standards in our discharge permit, allowing  technology improvements to occur, hopefully decreasing that large capital expense also,” said Keller.

With the new system the City of Pueblo’s Wastewater Department was also able to increase the capacity of this process by 50 percent while reducing electrical and chemical costs.

Algae blooms deprives waterways of much needed oxygen leading to Hypoxic (dead) zones. Dead zones occurs when a body of water or waterway has increased levels of nutrient pollution which is primarily caused by human involvement. These increased nutrients cause an overgrowth of algae which when it decomposes, reduces the supply of oxygen.

The Nutrient Removal Project was expected to cost an estimated $20-25 million. The City of Pueblo, with partners Brown and Caldwell, implemented Ntensity enhanced nutrient-removal system in for a total cost under $2 million.

The DiIorio Facility treats more than 10 million gallons of wastewater per day.

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