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Engineering with Altitude
Denver, CO – Engineering at altitude is an engineering challenge. Faced with continued increases in tourism in this popular mountain resort area and with the need to comply with some of the most stringent discharge limits in the country to protect downstream water quality, Copper Mountain Consolidated Metro District (CMCMD) turned to Rothberg, Tamburini & Winsor, Inc. (RTW) to plan and design the expansion and upgrade of their Wastewater Reclamation Facility (WWRF). The challenges were plenty, including:
- Protecting the pristine environment of a high profile resort community,
- Meeting strict effluent standards, since Dillon Reservoir is just a few miles downstream and serves as the water supply for over a million people in Denver
- Designing a treatment process for a highly variable flow, fluctuating between 20,000 gallons per day (gpd) off-season to 1,200,000 gpd during peak season. Permanent residents number only 196, but over one million skiers come to Copper over the course of a season.
- An extreme environment, with an elevation of 9,700 feet above sea level, 280" of annual snowfall, temperatures ranging from -30°F to 37°F in the winter, and possible air blast from a nearby active avalanche chute
- A facility that needs to be virtually invisible both from the perspective of visitors to the pristine Rocky Mountain setting and from the perspective of flawless operation to those downstream who drink the millions of gallons of water reclaimed by the facility
The Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District (CMCMD) has a challenge like few other providers of community services in the country: providing water and wastewater services for a resort community at an elevation of 9,700 feet. While not only combating the rigors of mother nature in the Rocky Mountains, CMCMD also had to meet some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the country, protect the pristine environment, and continue to serve the demanding and varying seasonal needs of a growing resort community. When it was time to upgrade and expand their Wastewater Reclamation Facility (WWRF), CMCMD turned to Rothberg, Tamburini & Winsor, Inc. (RTW) engineers and consultants in Denver, Colorado.
The challenges of designing for and constructing a facility located at an elevation of just under 10,000 feet included in a short construction season, extremely unpredictable climate changes, higher cost of materials, and the need to reinforce the facility against potential avalanche dangers. Very specific construction sequencing was key to keeping the plant operational during construction. Challenges for the treatment process included designing a method to handle widely fluctuating flow levels typical of a resort community, and protecting the pristine environment, including effective odor control and disposal of biosolids. Since the treated effluent flows downstream to the Dillon Reservoir, which is the water supply for over a million people in Denver, very strict standards for phosphorus, ammonia, nitrogen, and BOD5 had to be met.
RTW’s team of scientists, engineers and consultants formulated a Master Plan for CMCMD to project future demands on the plant, confirm discharge limits, and recommend viable improvement and expansion plans to meet the need. RTW then designed and provided construction administration services for the treatment process, electrical, and control upgrades of the plant to increase its capacity to 1.2 mgd, including phosphorus removal, filtration, and sludge processing. Through the traditional design/bid/build process, Southwest Contractors was selected for construction, while RTW led architectural and mechanical engineering services, and Repella Consulting Engineers provided structural engineering. The overall project was completed within 1.5% of original budgets, well within the 5% industry standard for engineering and construction projects.
“It was a complex project, faced with challenging issues such as high altitude and mountainous terrain considerations….avalanche danger,” reported Mike Koenig, Water/Wastewater Director, Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District. “We couldn’t be happier with our newly expanded plant.”RTW implemented innovative applications to create a more reliable and robust WWRF for CMCMD in serving its dense resort area, including: Ionization Odor Control Systems; 3-cell Flow Equalization basin design, and the use of Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP) technology. Through RTW’s design, CMCMD can transparently serve the wastewater needs of this over 2-mile high community; provide engineering standards for utilizing the various technologies in reducing capital costs, energy use, and time and materials spent in Operations & Maintenance; meet stringent environmental standards; protect endangered fish species and the Lake Dillon Reservoir downstream; and, preserve the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains - - praised in “America the Beautiful”.