ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. – The Water Treatment Plant at Arnold Air Force Base is now brighter, safer, more reliable and more efficient thanks to a multimillion-dollar renovation project that included everything from cosmetic and quality of life upgrades to complete infrastructure and operating system overhauls.
“This project helps ensure that we continue to provide potable water to all base personnel that meets or exceeds the standards set by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Joshua Cooke, senior utility manager with the Civil Engineering Operations Section at Arnold AFB.
The nearly 4,000-acre Woods Reservoir provides water for the Arnold AFB mission area. The Water Treatment Plant, which was constructed in the 1950s, treats the water that comes from this lake.
Work began on the more than $4 million plant renovation project in March 2019 and was completed in September 2020.
The interior and exterior aesthetics of the plant have greatly improved as a result of the renovation effort, according to Cooke. In his role on the project, Cooke was responsible for ensuring that the project fulfilled the specified requirements. He participated in design reviews, worked closely with the Air Force project manager during construction to coordinate work, and acted as the liaison between the systems engineers and plant operators and the project management team.
“We now have a facility that looks as polished as any water treatment plant around,” Cooke said.
Among the work done to enhance facility appearance and comfort for those working there was the complete renovation of the lab space, restrooms and installation of new interior finishes.
The entire HVAC system for the plant, including its ventilation and air conditioning units, was replaced. The steam heat previously used to keep those in the plant warm during the winter months has been replaced with natural gas.
Incandescent and fluorescent lighting across the Water Treatment Plant was replaced with energy efficient LED fixtures, reducing the cost to operate while providing better lighting in both interior and exterior areas of the plant.
New furnishings were provided and installed as part of the project scope.
“All of the upgrades, like new windows, painting, fixtures, flooring, lighting and furniture, changes the mood as soon as you walk in the door,” Cooke said. “You can walk through the plant now and see a lot more smiling faces.”
While important components of the project, the work wasn’t just about giving the Water Treatment Plant a facelift and creating a more pleasant working environment for facility operators.
“In addition to the updating of the plant’s physical appearance, many unseen upgrades were made that improved safety, reliability and efficiency of the plant,” said Frankie Hill, lead plant operator with National Aerospace Solutions, LLC, the Test Operations and Sustainment contractor for Arnold Engineering Development Complex, which is headquartered at Arnold AFB.
To bolster plant safety, new interior and exterior guardrails were installed. A new fire alarm system was designed and installed in the Water Treatment Plant by a state-licensed fire protection engineer.
Operational upgrades included the replacement of the control console for the plant filter system and its backwash pump controls. The control system for the service pumps, booster pump and tank level monitoring and control were modified.
A computer workstation was put in place to allow for the monitoring and collection of historical data collection for the filter system controls, pump controls and tank level monitoring and control.
“The new controls are digital systems, which means our operators are able to use computer-based software to run, monitor and document operations,” Cooke said. “This has made operations significantly more efficient and thorough.”
Hill commented that the new control system has greatly improved plant performance, while eliminating much of the “guess work” needed to operate it.
“The operators are able to see real-time results of their efforts as well as have access to more data from the treatment process, therefore allowing them to monitor and detect undesirable trends with the ability for a faster and accurate corrective action,” Hill said.
Sedimentation basins were covered with a new protective coating.
“The application of a protective coating to the sedimentation basins will ensure a much greater lifespan of the concrete poured during the original 1950s-era construction, as well as reduce the amount of effort needed to perform routine cleaning since sedimentation can no longer stick to the porous concrete,” Hill said. “The addition of tube settlers in the final stages of the sedimentation process has increased removal of solids from the water, thereby increasing the efficiency of the filters and increasing the amount of time needed between filter backwash cycles.”
Dry chemical feeders used in the treatment process have been replaced. This has improved the accuracy of the chemicals applied during the treatment process, Hill said.
The existing diesel generator set and automatic transfer switch were replaced with a newer version. How the plant is powered was another item addressed in the project scope. A pole-mounted transformer bank was replaced with ground-based pad-mounted transformers.
“Upgrades to the electrical system, including a new emergency generator and new incoming power transformers, have increased the confidence we can continue to meet water demands during a weather or disaster event,” Hill said.
The project concluded with the successful changeover of those transformers in early September.
Hill added the work performed over the course of the preceding months was completed with no significant impact to plant operations.
“It is worth mentioning the great effort on the part of the contractors and the operators to ensure a minimum of disruption to the operation of the water system, and it is a testament to their professionalism,” he said.