The Town of Nederland
By Alexander O. Armani-Nunn, Nederland administrative intern
Some may argue that environmental stewardship and sustainability are millennial fads that will soon pass. But in the small mountain Town of Nederland, the thread of sustainability is being sown into the fabric of the community with an unblinking eye toward the future.
The Town’s unwavering commitment to sustainable practices is embodied in its recently completed state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility. The facility, which was constructed under the guidance of Greenwood Village-based Frachetti Engineering Inc., has proven to be a model of social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
In 2006, the state mandated that Nederland administer improvements to its outdated and inadequate lagoon-based wastewater treatment facility on the banks of Barker Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to the City of Boulder. Early on, the project was marred by design and construction costs that exceeded the Town’s budget.
“We had initially been working with a design we could not afford and that was not meeting our efficiency goals, all supported by financing that would mean less resources left for our overall utilities system,” said Town Administrator Alisha Reis. “We knew we had to do something different.”
The Town scrapped the original designs in 2011 and began seeking a new design firm that would work alongside Town officials to design a facility that could meet the needs of the community without exceeding the budget.
Offering to conduct the project as a design-build rather than a traditional design-bid-build project, Frachetti Engineering provided the perfect match. Design-build engineering consists of a single entity managing both the design and construction of a project. Such a method allows for design changes to be made throughout the building process, maximizing cost-effectiveness and making it easier to overcome unforeseen obstacles.
The Town was able to achieve a final product that goes beyond environmental sustainability to include elements of social and economic sustainability to boot.
The environmental sustainability of the facility is evident in several features that maximize efficiency. This includes a geothermal ground loop system that uses outdoor air for heating within the facility. The system also uses hybrid blowers that combine the conventional technology of a rotary lobe compressor with a screw compressor to provide more air, more efficiently. A UV disinfection system cuts down on the need for chemicals in sanitizing water passing through the facility. All the materials used in building the facility maximize energy efficiency, which along with automated controls systems, significantly reduce the costs of operating the facility. Stone excavated on-site was
used for an architectural veneer around the exterior of the facility, and a solar connection on-site offers an easy link for a future solar farm.
In the end, this efficient facility came in nearly $3 million less than the original design. By employing sustainable solutions, engineers were also able to reduce the energy costs of the facility by 20 percent, resulting in reduced user fees for residents. Furthermore, the implementation of sustainable practices also qualified the Town for state loans with zero percent financing on half of the facility’s loans. With previous financing, the Town would have paid a total of $11 million over 40 years for the facility, compared with just over $7 million. Prior to improvements, the facility site was an unsightly conglomeration of lagoons, dirt, rock, and heavy machinery that blocked views of Barker Reservoir and use of the surrounding area. Today, residents enjoy unobstructed views of the reservoir, and the Town is in the process of constructing a public park and performance space in place of the former north lagoon, which has since been filled. A rejuvenated public space is not the only social benefit of the new facility. Water treated at the plant is now among the top 10 percent nationwide in terms of overall quality.
“It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to make really clean water with the most up-to-date equipment, giving me the ability to make as little impact on the environment as possible,” said Town Utilities Supervisor Chris Pelletier.