Melville, NY — On November 21, 2017 H2M architects + engineers’ (H2M) Rich Humann, president and CEO, and Chris Weiss deputy director of Wastewater Engineering presented the Water Environmental Federation’s (a national organization) 2017 Project Excellence Award to Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walters and Town Board members James Wooten, John Dunleavy, Jodi Giglio, Tim Hubbard and Superintendent of the Riverhead Sewer District, Michael Reichel. WEF's annual Project Excellence Award pays tribute to excellence and innovation in the execution of projects and programs in the water sector.
The Town of Riverhead in a 15-year partnership with H2M architects + engineers successfully designed and implemented the first of its kind in the state of New York; the Riverhead Water Resource Recovery Facility Upgrade and ReUse Program. This project resulted resoundingly in a cadre of positive outcomes from ReUsing wastewater to irrigate the nearby golf course; proving and setting NYS ReUse water standards; RePurposing existing buildings and tanks; protecting the Peconic Estuary; and saving up to 100 million gallons a year from being pumped from our sole source drinking water aquifer.
“It is a pleasure to work with the Town of Riverhead. The leadership exemplifies vision and courage. Having the vision to see what could be done and the courage to face the challenges without losing focus of the goal,” said Humann. “It’s a state-of-the-art project that is really going to set the standard not only on Long Island but even nationally.”
"This project represents all that is good when different levels of government work together," stated Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. "Suffolk County, New York State and the Town of Riverhead's commitment to the improvement of our estuary has allowed us to move forward with this innovative design in the treatment of wastewater and I hope will serve as a beacon for other communities. I am thankful to the men and women that are employed by the Riverhead Sewer District for their hard work, and I would like to commend Superintendent Michael Reichel for his commitment to this project."
The initial goal of this project was to improve the Peconic Estuary. Working hand in hand with local and state government the goal “flushed” its way out and it became very evident that this project had so many more benefits beyond initial thoughts. In one’s career you don’t often get the opportunity to Choose an improvement; more commonly it is a requirement or mandated. This project exemplifies what can be achieved with political support, regulatory support and public support.
In addition to the WEF national award, the Riverhead Water ReUse Program was recognized by ACEC NY with the 2017 Diamond Award and the 2017 Sustainability Award by the Long Island Branch of ASCE Metropolitan Chapter. ASCE sustainability award recognizes a project that utilizes principles of sustainability throughout design, construction, and operation. This was the first year this award was given by ASCE.
“The Water Environment Federation is committed to accelerating resource recovery in the water sector. The Town of Riverhead’s water ReUse program serves as an excellent example of recovering and reusing this valuable resource. The Project Excellence Award is a testament to the Riverhead Town Board’s foresight and commitment towards achieving an improved outcome for the community. The project team should take pride in their tenacity to complete the project in spite of several challenging obstacles.” Thomas E. Kunetz, President-elect, The Water Environment Federation.
“After conversations with Thomas E. Kunetz, President – elect, The Water Environmental Federation, it shined a light that the impact of this project was more than we even realized. The Town of Riverhead and H2M CHOSE to move forward with this project”. Said Chris Weiss, P.E., Deputy Director of Wastewater Engineering, “It moved from a choice to a mission, with the engineering designs; public outreach to assist in the publics’ understanding of the importance of sustainability; setting standards and regulations all forwarded our day to day goal to continually design to improve and protect the environment and the quality of life. “
Why would H2M architects + engineers and the Town of Riverhead choose to improve upon a perfectly functioning wastewater treatment plant and pave the way for new concepts like “wastewater ReUse?” What seemed like a straightforward question was found to be all but simple. New York did not have state standards in place for wastewater ReUse. Creating the first municipal wastewater ReUse facility in New York State was the perfect solution to address these circumstances. Thus, the inception of the 15-year Riverhead Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) upgrade project. From study through design, construction, and start-up, the facility was completed in time for the 2016 golf irrigation season, and within the $24 million budget.
To establish the discharge limits, a pilot plant was designed and constructed on the AWTF property using readily available treatment equipment. The ReUse water was tested from the sprinklers as well as on the replica golf course landscaping, proving there wouldn’t be any negative impacts to the patrons or public property.
The success of the pilot study combined with its newly established NYS ReUse water standards have now shortened the path for other New York State projects to easily follow. The truly outstanding result of the completion of the construction project was the community acceptance by the residents, the golf course patrons, and the grounds crew; pushing past the fear of the unknowns of wastewater ReUse and joining the chorus of, “it’s about time.”
The entire facility was designed with the concept of, “Choose to ReUse” in mind. This focused the drive to repurpose and retrofit existing structures with new equipment to maximize the system’s upgrade potential and capacity without increasing the facilities overall property. Energy efficiency measures were also selected, reducing the overall carbon footprint for the construction and future operation.
As the new ReUse standards were being approved, the facility’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit was modified from a maximum effluent nitrogen concentration of 15 mg/l to 3.2 mg/l. The new Riverhead WRRF project blossomed to a 1.5 million gallon per day membrane bioreactor with a fully integrated wastewater ReUse process train. Ultrafiltration membrane technology was selected based on its ability to produce crystal clear effluent. This results in richplant effluent that is always ReUse ready. That was the heart and soul of this project. Utilizing fiber optic cables between process control panels on the site, a complete SCADA loop was created for 24/7 monitoring and control, with remote access from mobile devices to further promote effluent quality.
The completion of this project met and exceeded the client/owner needs by increasing the flow capacity of the WRRF and enhancing the benefits to the overall well-being of the coastal community by reducing the total nitrogen discharge by 50 percent. Furthermore, by diverting one third of the effluent discharge from the Peconic River to the golf course for irrigation use, up to 100 million gallons a year of groundwater will not be pumped from the sole source drinking water aquifer.