New Boxelder Plant Expansion Helps Keep Waterways, Future Clean

Wastewater isn’t something we typically discuss in everyday conversation. In Fort Collins, that’s often reserved for what’s new in town or what weekend adventures are on the horizon. But with the news that Boxelder Sanitation District recently completed the expansion of its new wastewater treatment plant, wastewater is suddenly a topic relevant to both of those Fort Collins staples. After seven years in development, the newly expanded facility is perfectly positioned to service future growth in the area, while also helping ensure residents have clean waterways for adventures to come.

Stellar service and the stewardship of our natural areas are two commitments that have driven the core mission of Boxelder Sanitation District over the years (the District’s name does come from one of our local waterways, Boxelder Creek, after all).

Beginning as a lagoon treatment system that serviced 100 accounts in the early 1960s, the District has kept in step with the rapid growth of Colorado’s Front Range for more than 50 years. With the development of a state-of-the-art facility in 2013 and the final phase of enhancements completed this summer, the new facility boasts increased operational efficiencies, meets evolving regulatory demands, and accommodates future growth.

Today, Boxelder is excited about its continued commitment to the return of clean water into the Cache la Poudre River and being able to do that more efficiently.

How are the enhancements funded?

The construction of upgrades and improvements to the Boxelder Sanitation District Wastewater Treatment Facility were financed by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA) State Revolving Fund Program. What does that mean, exactly? Great question.

The CWRPDA is a program administered by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) and provides low-interest loans to wastewater treatment programs like Boxelder. CDPHE works with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Colorado to sell bonds, the proceeds of which turn into loans for service providers like Boxelder. These loans allow for the undertaking of large-scale projects in order to keep up with growing demand, the flexibility to improve expensive equipment or processes, and the ability to fund enhancements that bring facilities up to evolving regulations.

To date, Boxelder has taken out two of these loans. The first loan—funded by monthly service charges and plant investment fees—was used to enable the development of the new facility in 2013. The second loan, which was applied to the most recent improvements completed this summer, was funded by new development fees since the additions were sparked by a need to keep up with growth and we believe that growth pays its own way.

What are some of the exciting new developments at the facility?

While the first loan created a new facility to match current demand, the second loan funded the upgrades and creation of essential processes to support future demand, including additional oxidation ditches, clarifiers, an expanded ultra-violet disinfection system and a new biosolids treatment system. In total, the new facility is able to treat wastewater in a way that creates cleaner water and trades out chemicals like chlorine—a win for residents and our natural areas.

The new biosolids treatment system has more control over the treatment process and is more efficient, which supports the goal of creating superior clean water, but also makes for a pretty interesting lesson in science. In the previous lagoon system, solids would sink to the bottom of the water. Every couple of years, a contracted company would come to pump the sludge out of the lagoon, which was an expensive but common and necessary solution. This system also complicated the overall treatment plant process with the potential release of phosphorous into the water.

How the Treatment Plant works: A very short lesson in wastewater treatment

 At the plant, wastewater enters the headworks facility and engages the primary treatment, which removes inorganic materials and grit via screens that rotate. The waste then enters oxidation ditches and clarifiers. In the oxidation ditches, microorganisms deconstruct matter and consume waste materials through a biochemical process.

Two types of microorganisms (we call them “bugs”), those that thrive in oxygen-rich environments, and those that prefer oxygen-deficient environments, do the heavy lifting here. Through the careful regulation of airflow, an environment that promotes aerobic and anaerobic activity is created, spurring along a faster and more efficient breakdown of solids than, say, naturally in a lake or river.

The next step involves the calming act of clarification. New clarifiers intake the wastewater directly from the oxidation ditches and make room for the water to slowly pool. This placid environment allows the properties of water—primarily density—to go to work. All of the once-suspended pieces of matter eventually begin to drop to the bottom of the clarifiers. Once those particles are safely on the bottom, the clear water leaves the clarifier and travels to an ultra-violet light disinfection system to eliminate any potential leftover organisms. Finally, the clean water flows back into our waterways.

Not only is this overall process safer for the environment, it’s also up to the newest regulations like Regulation 85, a nutrient regulation concerned with total nitrogen and phosphorous in the water released back into the wild.

Setting up a clean, healthy future

Higher density development means more wastewater in the District. While it’s not typically something people discuss in everyday conversation, it is something Boxelder is committed to addressing day-in and day-out, like it has for the last 50 years. That’s because in order for area residents to enjoy a clean, healthy future, there needs to be a service committed to transforming our wastewater into clean, healthy water.

You can learn more about the project at boxeldersanitation.org/current-projects.

For over 50 years, Boxelder has been here to serve

The history of Boxelder Sanitation District

The concept of “The American West” is something that’s mythologized not just in the United States, but all over the world. Manifest Destiny. The Wild West. People enjoying the beauty from “sea to shining sea,” as it goes. But while western expansion tamed the wild landscape via laid infrastructure like trails then railroad, and soon highways, another type of infrastructure was just as essential to bringing modern populations across the plains: water and sanitation.

Like the Europeans discovered centuries ago, densely populated societies create waste, and if that waste isn’t disposed of properly, society can fall apart very quickly. For an area like Northern Colorado, which has transformed from a once-important trading hub to a highly-populated area of modern commerce, sanitary sewer service is one of the pillars that has supported its growth.

For more than 50 years, Boxelder Sanitation District has acted as a reliable utility to ensure residents of this important area can enjoy clean living in their homes and places of business, while also enjoying clean recreation in the natural areas they love so much.

 

The history of Boxelder Sanitation District

With news reports that Colorado’s population is on track to grow by roughly 2 million people through 2050, it can be hard for new residents in the area to imagine what life must have been like back in the mid-20th century. Quieter in comparison. Maybe a bit slower and simpler if looking through the lens of nostalgic hindsight. But with a population that was quietly ramping up, sewer service was a hot topic for those in the know. That’s why, in the midst of growth, Boxelder Sanitation was formed.

Officially formed in 1965, the Boxelder Sanitation District was created as a Special District under Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. For the unfamiliar, other special districts also formed by this legislation included fire protection districts, water, health and parks and recreation services—all essential services for the current and future health of area residents.

The District was created by a group of forward-thinking, visionary property owners. These owners saw a need for sanitary sewer services in-and-around the intersection of I-25 and East Mulberry Street, and perhaps understood that the lack of plans to service this area not only caused issues for them at the time but also throttled any progress for future growth.

When the Boxelder Sanitation District was officially formed in 1965, it included less than 100 accounts.

 

The importance of sewer services

Before we jump from 100 accounts in the mid-1960s to Boxelder’s growth (which parallels the area’s growth) let’s take a moment to examine why sanitation and sewer services are so vital.

For anyone who has read up on the history of civilization, played the video game The Sims, or used a toilet, it’s clear that wastewater management and sewer systems are crucial elements to overall sanitation and disease prevention. Here in Northern Colorado, we’re not only gifted with tremendous open natural areas and pristine wildlife beauty, but also incredible water, whether in the stream or tap. Without a proper wastewater treatment system like the one managed by Boxelder, our environment and water supply would quickly become contaminated and spread disease throughout our population.

With the creation of Boxelder Sanitation District in the 1960s, those original 100 accounts became the cornerstone for ensuring this area would have proper wastewater management and clean water for generations to come.

 

The growth of Boxelder and the region

Since the formation of the District in 1965, the population of Northern Colorado has grown at breakneck speed. In 1960, Larimer County had roughly 54,000 residents. According to the most recent annual population estimate from the American Community Survey in 2019, that population clocked in at a whopping 356,899. That type of growth is indicative of the pace of growth Boxelder Sanitation District has experienced, which covers portions of Fort Collins, Windsor, Severance, Timnath and unincorporated areas of Larimer and Weld counties.

The extension of collection lines and treatment plant upgrades required for new development are paid for by developers seeking services under the District’s philosophy that growth pays its way. By operating this way, current Boxelder customers can rest easy knowing that the District keeps them as the number one priority—well, at least tied for number one next to clean wastewater.

 

Boxelder Sanitation District today

As forward-thinking as the original founders of the District were, they couldn’t have imagined how important to the county, and densely populated, this area would one day become. Today, the District maintains 100 miles of sewer lines and treats approximately 1,940,000 gallons of wastewater each day (that’s 700 million gallons a year). The reason why so much water is processed by Boxelder is because each household in the District uses roughly 100 gallons of water per day—that’s a lot of water. Businesses and commercial sites, like our beloved breweries, use even more. In an area where water is such an important and limited commodity, it’s essential that services like Boxelder tend to the treatment of our used water before it’s returned to Boxelder Creek and the Poudre River.

That commitment to the health of residents and the environment has not gone unnoticed. The Boxelder treatment plant has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its ability to treat wastewater. Learn more about that process over at our wastewater treatment page.

 

Clean water for years to come

Wastewater treatment is often considered a silent, yet essential, service for a happy, healthy life and we like to keep it that way. Boxelder customers shouldn’t have to think too hard about their wastewater—with the exception of much-needed and appreciated water conservation practices—because we’re here to make sure wastewater is properly cleaned in order to help maintain our fragile ecosystem. From the 1960s to the 2020s, that mission remains the same—though slightly bigger in scope today.

Meet Kevin Schmitz, one of Boxelder’s best

Kevin Schmitz
Kevin Schmitz
Kevin Schmitz, Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD) pretreatment technician.

On any given day you are likely to find Kevin Schmitz,  Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD) pretreatment technician, keeping a close eye on what goes down the drain. As the front line of defense for BSD’s industrial and commercial customers, Kevin takes his role in keeping dangerous chemicals and contaminants out of the Poudre River seriously.

Keeping the river pristine is a primary goal and of immense value for BSD and Kevin. Having been with BSD for three years, and in his role as a pretreatment technician for one year, Kevin is quick to note that wherever commercial customers deal with chemicals, he will be keeping a close eye to ensure all rules and regulations are followed.

“Everything I do is to ensure the safety and health of the Poudre River,” he said. “I’m the first line of defense against harmful water coming into the Poudre. Our primary objective is to put all treated wastewater in the Poudre cleaner than what is already there.”

In order to do that, Kevin and the team at BSD issue permits to companies enabling them to discharge approved and tested wastewater down the drain, while regulating other companies that have zero discharge permits. A zero discharge permit means that the chemicals produced at the facility must be disposed of properly by taking them offsite and not sending them down the drain.

Kevin, who is often out in the field working hand-in-hand with BSD customers, loves the variety of his job. He gets to be behind the scenes with customers who create everything from lawnmowers to fire trucks – things he never knew went on in Northern Colorado before working at BSD.

“I really enjoy seeing all the amazing stuff that gets built in Fort Collins,” Kevin said. “I had no idea there was such a wide variety of products that get built here; it’s just really cool to see.”

While Kevin and BSD have an Enforcement Response Plan, something BSD worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on, they are fortunate in that they don’t have to use it often and that companies in Fort Collins share in BSD’s goal of keeping the Poudre safe.

While Kevin has worked in a lot of jobs, he’s never found one like BSD where the team is so close that they are like family.

Here at BSD, we have a crew full of hardworking team members like Kevin working diligently to ensure that your wastewater needs are met. These are the unsung heroes of BSD – now the next time you see wastewater go down the drain you have a better glimpse into what we do here day-to-day for you.

Boxelder monitors wastewater for early COVID-19 detection

As a longstanding member of the community, Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD) does more than just treat wastewater. BSD has a long history of collaboration with municipalities and water entities throughout Northern Colorado, supporting our neighbors in a variety of ways.

Our newest collaboration efforts involve participating in an innovative program to gather data to support state officials in COVID-19 monitoring and tracking.

BSD has joined 17 other wastewater utilities across Colorado, serving 60% of the state’s population, to participate in a COVID-19 wastewater surveillance collaborative funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). BSD is working with Colorado State University (CSU) and Metro State University (MSU) to develop a statewide wastewater surveillance system for testing of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The state has provided $520,000 in funding to ensure facilities such as BSD can provide an early warning, ranging from a matter of days to a week, to state and local health authorities. The system identifies significant changes that could indicate future COVID-19 outbreaks and potential virus hot spots.

Wastewater can tell you what is happening in the population. People with positive COVID-19 shed virus in their stool and the testing can detect traces of the virus. The idea is, if we see an increase in positive test results, it would provide a lead time for the health department and community to respond to a possible outbreak.

BSD is collecting samples from influent wastewater (water that has not yet been treated) twice a week. Those samples are then delivered to CSU for testing to track COVID-19 virus particles. Using that data, they can detect the prevalence of the disease in the community.

How it works

This innovative practice, which is being implemented around the world to detect the coronavirus, involves CDPHE working with wastewater facilities such as BSD to develop a sampling plan that documents where the samples are collected, procedures for collecting and preserving the sample and safety protocols for all employees involved in the process.

Once the samples are collected, CSU and MSU oversee the testing and documentation of the samples to see if COVID-19 is detected. Considering people can be carriers of the disease and not express any symptoms, the ability to detect COVID-19 in human waste is a valuable tool for scientists.

Without BSD’s contribution to this collaborative effort, the datasets would be incomplete and less effective when decision-makers analyze it. The data will not be directly released from BSD and will take time to be gathered as part of the collaborative program.

Future expansion

There is the potential for additional monitoring in the future for the program, depending on the lab’s capacity in the start-up. More monitoring means more data and more data means better-equipped health experts to defend against COVID-19 and other possible pandemics.

BSD is on the front lines of this innovative testing process that could eventually be installed in broader regions or in more specific areas if it is a success.

The possibility exists to institute such monitoring systems in places like care facilities and college dormitories, where there is a dense population of people that could get the disease if it were present.

In other BSD news

This fall BSD is upgrading its accounting software as part of our ongoing commitment of providing outstanding customer service.

As part of the upgrade, customers receiving statements in the mail will notice a few changes to the design of the bill. The new bills are expected to look like the sample shown here.

There will be no changes to the paperless statements provided by Xpress Bill Pay.

Options for paying your bill will remain the same. Customers are encouraged to sign up for automatic payment with Xpress Bill Pay. A link to Xpress is available on our website boxeldersanitation.org.

As always, if you have questions about your bill, please call us at 970-498-0604, or contact us at info@boxeldersanitation.org.

 

Boxelder expands to serve customers

Times are changing, and you have to adapt and change to keep up. It’s the same story for Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD). In order to ensure that your wastewater needs are met in an efficient affordable manner, we have to stay ahead of the changes our community is experiencing.

BSD is in the process of expanding its current wastewater treatment plant to meet the growing demand for wastewater treatment as well as changing regulations. With increasingly stringent limitations adopted by the State of Colorado, BSD completed a new treatment facility in 2013.

While this facility continues to perform well, in order to maintain compliance and meet new regulations, a second expansion is required. Construction on the expansion is currently underway and is slated for completion in summer 2021.

The new facility will include:

  • Expanded influent screening, grit removal and pumping
  • New anaerobic selector basin and oxidation ditches for biological nutrient removal
  • New final clarifiers
  • New anaerobic selector digesters
  • New solids handling process facility
  • Expanded and upgraded UV system
  • New wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) operation building

These upgrades and additions are expected to increase operational efficiencies, meet future regulatory demands and accommodate future growth.

Funding for the project

You may wonder who is footing the bill for all of this. Rest easy, growth pays its own way here – there are no new fees to customers.

This expansion is financed by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA) State Revolving Fund. The CWRPDA is administered by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) with joint funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Colorado.

Project cost breakdown:

  • WWTP construction – $35 million
  • Project loan – $29 million, 30-year, 1.8 percent interest
  • District funds – $6 million from capital revenues from new development
  • Future loan payment support by new development Plant Investment Fee Revenue

What not to flush

We have come a long way from the lagoon system that we started with in 1965, however, as times change so must BSD to ensure that your wastewater needs are met. Help us take care of this new facility by only flushing the three “P’s” down the toilet – pee, poop and toilet paper. Everything else should go in the garbage:

  • Flushable wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Hygiene products
  • Old medication/pills
  • Diapers
  • Dental floss
  • Q-tips/cotton balls
  • Dead goldfish
  • Fats, oils & grease
  • Cigarette butts
  • Hair
  • Gum

Save time, pay online

Did you know that you can save time and pay your bills online? Sign up for Xpress Bill Pay and enjoy the secure and trusted way to pay your BSD bills. Also included when you sign up is a monthly eNewsletter, which includes all the latest news from Boxelder. Sign up now to stay in the know.

We trust Xpress Bill Pay to handle your account because they are the experts. They work closely with cities, governments and businesses across the country to offer you a seamless bill-paying experience. You can access it 24/7 from any device or enroll in automatic payments so you never have to stress missing a payment.

For all the latest BSD updates visit http://boxeldersanitation.org/.

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