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Water Treatment Plant Ranks Among EPA’s Energy Stars

Rendering of the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management updated Hemphill Water Treatment Plant
The Atlanta Department of Watershed Management updated its Hemphill Water Treatment Plant, replacing five antiquated steam turbine pumps with eight electric high-service pumps that boost the station’s capacity while greatly reducing energy consumption. Courtesy of DWM, Office of Communications and Community Relations

Updates to an antiquated pumping station in Atlanta draw recognition from the EPA’s National Building Competition for dramatic energy savings.

May 28, 2013—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the winners of the 2012 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition, in which more than 3,000 building owners competed to reduce their weather-normalized energy usage by the largest percentage, using 2011 data as the base point.

An impressive 85 buildings reduced energy consumption by 20 percent or more. The winner, Demarest Elementary School, in Bloomfield, New Jersey, reduced energy by a staggering 52 percent. The top 15 list comprises a broad spectrum of public and commercial buildings that includes four schools, three K-Mart retail stores, a federal courthouse, and a water treatment plant.

The EPA estimates that all of the entrants combined saved more than 3 billion kBtus of energy, reducing their energy bills by a combined $50 million annually. As a group, the savings come largely from improvements in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and an enhanced focus on efficient operation.

One of the most impressive energy-reduction efforts was at the Hemphill Water Treatment Plant in Atlanta. A plant has been in operation at the site since 1875, growing along with the city to its current capacity of 136.5 mgd. The current plant is one of three serving the city of Atlanta and parts of Fulton County.

In late 2011, the city’s Department of Watershed Management (DWM) completed a $10-million project to dramatically upgrade a finished water pumping station, replacing five large steam turbine pumps that dated to the 1940s and had a capacity of 190 mgd. The antiquated boilers, burning a combination of fuels, were expensive to operate and maintain. Natural gas, fuel oil, and boiler chemicals alone cost the city $2.3 million per year.

The DWM replaced the system with eight electric high-service pumps that boost the station’s capacity to 240 mgd while greatly reducing energy consumption. Four of the pumps are variable frequency drives (VFD) and four are soft start. The VFD units vary the output speed of the motor, consuming power only when it’s needed. Electricity costs are about $150,000 per month.

“Our efforts to increase energy savings at our Hemphill plant align with Mayor Kasim Reed’s initiative to make Atlanta one of the nation’s top cities in sustainability,” said DWM Deputy Commissioner Frank Stephens in written comments to Civil Engineering online. “We upgraded our equipment in order to make our drinking water treatment operations more efficient while saving money for the city and residents and improving air quality. The city made a big change to produce major results.”

In addition to the pump upgrades, the DWM replaced obsolete lighting systems with high-performance LED and fluorescent fixtures, reducing peak lighting power demand by 64 percent at the facility, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A new control system reduced that figure further. The city expects to save $118,000 per year with the new lighting and an additional $70,000 per year from reduced maintenance requirements.

“The EPA honor is very rewarding and makes you feel valued as an employee and a team member working on the project. Being recognized was one of the greatest honors that I could have imagined,” said Howell Bradford, the water system superintendent, in written comments to Civil Engineering online.

Bradford attributed the impressive savings to teamwork and on including all of the employees in the process to gather a wider range of ideas. “[The employees] can add value to your meetings, and they might have ideas that you may otherwise overlook. Listen to them and brainstorm on the difficult issues.” Bradford said.

Demarest Elementary achieved its 52 percent reduction in energy use with the help of Cenergistic, an energy conservation consultant headquartered in Dallas that was hired by the Bloomfield Public School District in 2011. Specifically, school personnel were trained to properly operate the building’s energy management system and shut down the boilers when they are not needed. Additionally, the staff has been enlisted to turn off or unplug electrical equipment when it is not in use.

Second on the list is the Army and Air Force Exchange Service convenience store in Fort Hood, Texas. The store cut its energy use by 48.5 percent via a multifaceted approach that maximized results. The project included an extensive tune up to the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment; new, high-efficiency lighting; and upgraded control units.

The three Kmart stores on the list represent a larger, six-year corporate effort by Kmart and its owner, Sears Holdings, to systematically eliminate nearly all T12 fluorescent lighting in Sears and Kmart retail stores in favor of high-efficiency fixtures that generate more light from fewer lamps, according to Howard Riefs, the director of corporate communications for Sears Holdings, who wrote in response to questions posed by Civil Engineering online.

“These results are only a small indication of Sears Holdings’ efforts over the past six years,” Riefs said. “At that point in time, we began to really look at our energy consumption and how we could make improvements. These improvements have resulted in Sears Holdings being more disciplined about how we use energy, how we train our teams, maintain our equipment, and invest in our buildings. We are very proud of our results this year in the National Building Competition.”

The top 15 are:

Demarest Elementary School, Bloomfield, New Jersey (K-12 School) 52.1%
AAFES Ft. Hood Warrior Way Express Store B85001, Fort Hood, Texas (Other building type) 48.5%
Toms River Verizon Wireless, Toms River, New Jersey (Retail store) 43.1%
Shamrock Springs Elementary School, Westfield, Indiana (K-12 school) 42.1%
Hemphill Water Treatment Plant & Pumping Station, Atlanta (Other building type) 40.6%
Kmart store #4863, Gillette, Wyoming (Retail store) 40.2%
Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Courthouse, Newark, New Jersey (Courthouse) 36.8%
Craigmont High School, Memphis, Tennessee (K-12 school) 34.6%
San Antonio Federal Building, San Antonio, Texas (Office) 34.4%
Bloomfield Middle School, Bloomfield, New Jersey (K-12 school) 34.3%
North Carolina Area Health Education Center Building, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Office) 34.3%
Walsh & Associates, Inc., St. Louis (Warehouse) 34.0%
Kmart store #9348, Norridge, Illinois (Retail store) 33.4%
Customer Care and Aftersales, Ypsilanti, Michigan (Warehouse) 31.0%
Kmart store #7499, Mt. Vernon, Ohio (Retail store) 30.8%

“The impressive results of the National Building Competition help show that any building can take simple steps to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings where we all work, play, and learn,” said Bob Perciasepe, the EPA’s acting administrator, in a press release announcing the results. “All of the participants in the Energy Star National Building Competition are finding more and more ways to cut energy use, saving thousands of dollars and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”



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