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Fantastic voyage into heart of … wastewater plant

March 22, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

HEBER — Mark Jennette's neck is burned where the brim of his construction hard hat doesn't cover.

He wears a loose white T-shirt and talks fast in an East Coast accent.

The less known about his shoes the better.

Jennette is a Ryan Co. engineer working on the Heber Public Utility District's new $2.8 million wastewater treatment plant.

On Wednesday he explained in detail how the new plant will work and why it is better than the old plant.

Normally, a detailed explanation of the inner workings of a wastewater treatment plant would be as entertaining as a detailed explanation of the inner workings of a wastewater treatment plant.


But with Jennette as your tour guide, a trip through the whirling and gaseous area on the edge of town seems more fun than the Disneyland Jungle Cruise.

The first stop on the "fantastic voyage" is the headworks.

"The headworks is the big receptacle where everything goes," Jennette said. "And when I say ‘everything' I mean … well, you know."


He continued: After the "solids" or "everything" in the water sinks to the bottom of the headworks, it's on to the "muffin monsters."

Muffin monsters?

"Yep. The muffin monsters. That's the place where all of the solids are ground up," Jennette said.

After passing through the monsters, the "water" is shot into the wet well. The wet well is similar to the headworks in that the heavier sediment in the water floats to the bottom.

From there the "water" is sent to the racetrack.

The racetrack?

"Actually it's supposed to be called a clarifier," Jennette said. "It's a big circular concrete tank that spins the water around."

Since the plant isn't running yet, Jennette found a new use for it. Last week he Rollerbladed inside.

"I was going to set up a stand and charge kids 10 bucks to use it as a skate park," he joked.

After passing through the skate park, er … clarifier, the water passes through an oxidization ditch. This ditch is lined with tiny holes that let water flow through and catches "everything" else.

Once through the oxidization ditch the water is almost ready to return to a canal from whence it came.

Before that happens it gets chlorinated.

"The chlorine basin is the final step and it usually gets run through there twice," Jennette said.

The new Heber plant will have double the capacity of the old plant. If everything goes according to plan, it will be ready June 14, a little more than a year after the project was begun.

The town of Heber is going to need the new plant, according to Heber Public Utility District General Manager George Aguilar. He expects more than 800 new homes to be built in the area in coming years.

That's more than 1,600 new toilets.

Jennette won't be around to see them flushed. Once the plant is open for "business," his work is done and he moves on to his next project.

He did have a parting message for the residents of Heber: "When you flush I hope you think of me."

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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