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City seeks funds for flawed equipment design
An internal heat exchanger was installed at the wastewater treatment plant instead of an external one, which is needed in order for waste to be heated to the required temperature for bacteria to work. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Three pieces of equipment for the wastewater treatment plant of Monroe have caused a multitude of headaches due to what the city says is faulty design.

The facility requires heat exchangers, which are filters for water and waste that look similar to large barn fans with hoses attached. Coils heat the wastewater and send heat from the separated water to the sludge in 8-inch lines running along the equipment. The city estimates the cost to make up for the exchangers not working properly falls between $1 million to $1.5 million.

Utilities supervisor Mike Kennison said these machines have not worked throughout their entire use at the wastewater treatment plant, which has been for the past year and a half.

"I believe the design was wrong from the beginning," Kennison said. "Now we have to spend money to make them work."

AECOM, a design company based in Chicago, designed the exchangers. Kennison said the firm placed internal exchangers in the treatment facility rather than external ones, and that decision is what has caused problems.

The result is heat exchangers that can only push waste to reach temperatures of roughly 80 degrees. In order to host the bacteria which adequately break down the solid waste, temperatures need to reach 95 degrees or higher. Ideally, they would hit 100 degrees. Kennison said if these

bacteria are not thriving, the water does not meet safety levels required for the facility to be able to pump filtered water out of the wastewater treatment plant to an external water source.

Kennison said the city's wastewater workers have been able to make do by not using the internal exchangers and instead diverting the waste through a used external heat exchanger. They have been able to meet 95 to 100 degrees at the treatment plant. But that is a temporary fix until replacement parts, recently ordered, arrive in April.

Currently, city administrator Phil Rath said Monroe is looking to work out an arrangement between AECOM and the city to recuperate the funds lost through adjustments. There is not a formal agreement yet, though Rath said the city is in "ongoing talks with the company to resolve any issues."

"We're tracking the costs and seeing what options are available to us," Rath said.

He said the city is still talking with AECOM to resolve the issue through their contract. If an agreement cannot be made, Rath said options could include arbitration between the two parties or a lawsuit.