Penn State plans for new water treatment and distribution

  • Thursday, 19 March 2015
  • psu.edu

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HERSHEY, Pa. -- The Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning today (March 19) recommended the approval of final plans and authorization of funds for a water treatment plant and distribution upgrades at University Park.

The University Park water system currently delivers approximately 2.4 million gallons of water per day, which is pumped from the Big Hollow and Houserville well fields. While the current system meets required standards, it is facing a number of challenges:

-- The development of the campus physical plant has placed increasing demands on the storage capacity of the system.

-- The concurrent growth of the University and the greater State College area has also placed the University’s potable water wells at an unacceptably high risk of surface water contamination from increased amounts of storm water runoff.

-- Nearby groundwater pollution from past industrial accidents and poor waste management practices remain a chemical contamination threat.

-- The campus water supply is unusually hard, causing issues for researchers, increased maintenance on heating equipment from scaling and adverse effects to the Living Filter spray fields.

-- While the State College Borough Water Authority’s system has several interconnections to Penn State’s system for emergency purposes, they are unable to serve as a full backup supplier.

University Park operates an interconnected system consisting of four water tanks constructed between 1937 and 1992. In 1937 the difference between the capacity of the system when full and the lowest level to maintain sufficient water pressure represented a significant storage capacity.

Today a much higher level of water is required in the tanks at all times to maintain sufficient water pressure. The increase in pressure demand is due to increased building heights, the higher water pressure requirements of low-flow, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and backflow protection required by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This ultimately leaves storage space for only 375,000 gallons, which is less than what is required to meet the University’s fire suppression needs and regulatory requirements.

A comprehensive study of the costs and benefits of multiple options has led to a balanced plan that includes a new water treatment plant and water distribution system upgrades. The plan will allow the University to meet regulatory requirements, operational demands and insurance carrier fire protection water storage standards. The new water treatment plant will be located near the intersection of Big Hollow Road and Service Road on the north side of campus.

The water treatment plant will consist of two levels. Water needing to be treated will enter the building on the lower level, while the main level will house microfiltration for bacterial and protozoan removal treatment, nanofiltration for softening and removal of future contaminants of concern and granular activated-carbon treatment facilities for removal of chemical contamination.

Concurrently, a number of changes will be made to the distribution system. Tank 1, behind the Nittany Lion Inn, will be decommissioned and repurposed for future use as non-potable water storage in a reuse water system. Tanks 3 and 4, behind Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant and the golf course, respectively, will be raised to increase the water pressure and significantly increase the effective storage of the entire system. Tank 2, west of the Stuckeman Building, will be replaced with a higher tank. Finally, a ground storage tank with a capacity of 750,000 gallons will be added to the system. These changes will increase the effective storage to 3.3 million gallons.

The total project budget for the Water Treatment Plant and Distribution Upgrades is $62 million, with the majority of funding coming from the Commonwealth.

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