Fairfield to upgrade wastewater plant’s power center

The city of Fairfield will replace the 1965 and 1974 motor control centers that provided power to the functions of the wastewater treatment plant. Pictured is one row of the 1974 motor control center installed when the city upgraded the plant. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
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The city of Fairfield will replace the 1965 and 1974 motor control centers that provided power to the functions of the wastewater treatment plant. Pictured is one row of the 1974 motor control center installed when the city upgraded the plant. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

The city will replace equipment at its wastewater treatment plant this summer with state-of-the art technology.

The pair of motor control centers, one installed when the wastewater plan was built in 1965 and another when the plan was upgraded in 1974, are in desperate need of being replaced, said Fairfield Public Utilities Superintendent Jason Hunold.

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“These components within the motor control centers are obsolete, replacement parts are obsolete,” Hunold said. “The components, they’re working, but when it comes to failures and stuff like that, you’ve got to do a lot of fabrication within each unit.”

A pair of walls of motor control centers — which look like banks of square bowling alley lockers — are in two buildings. But inside each compartment are wires, capacitors and other electrical components that send power to all aspects of the wastewater treatment plan.

In the past five or six years, there have been about a dozen failures of electrical components, but none in the past year, said Hunold.

Hunold and Fairfield Public Utilities Director Adam Sackenheim said the new technology, known as smart motor control centers, will be able to communicate with the wastewater treatment plant’s control center, known as supervisory control and data acquisition, and monitor power consumption in real time, which will save money.

Right now, power consumption is all or nothing, they said. If only 30 percent or 50 percent power is needed, they’ll be able to adjust power that’s provided by Duke Energy or the plant’s generators.

“Hopefully we’re be able to detect problems before it fails,” he said.

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Now problems only surfaces when something breaks down and maintenance workers are opening boxes and digging around the wires and electronics. The new technology will allow a person to trouble shoot, conduct diagnostic tests and program the smart motor control centers by way of an Ethernet cable and laptop computer, “which is a new skill set for some of our guys,” Sackenheim said.

Sackenheim said the city’s been planning for the past several years to upgrade the motor control centers, but it’s a costly and lengthy project. The engineer’s estimate was $1.5 million, and it’s expecting to take nine months to complete, Sackenheim said.

The project is scheduled for Fairfield’s $17.2 million 2017 Capital Improvement Program budget, which City Council is expected to approve that budget at its April 24 meeting. Council is expected on May 8 to approve a contract, likely to Franklin-based Lake Erie Electric, who was the lowest bidder at just more than $1.4 million.

The project will be paid for by new debt. Council approved to take on $5 million in new debt at this past Monday’s business meeting to pay for the motor control center project and the upcoming Ohio 4 water main replacement expected to begin in May.