Tusayan sanitation plant wins big honor<br>
TUSAYAN — The hard work, planning and industry innovation in the Tusayan area continues to pay big dividends for the South Grand Canyon Sanitary District.
Arizona Water Pollution Control Association president Charlotte Waddle, center, presents Bob Petzoldt, left, and John Rueter with the Arizona Small Wastewater Facility of the Year award.
Earlier this month, the district won quite an honor by being named the Arizona Small Wastewater Facility of the Year at the Arizona Water Pollution Control Association’s 74th annual convention in Mesa.
Robert Petzoldt, plant superintendent, and John Rueter, former chairman of the district’s board, were on hand to accept the honor, which recognized the Tusayan district for its "superior operation, community service and commitment to environmental sustainability."
"The district is now number one in the United States in reclaimed water use per capita," Rueter said. "Even though we are small, it sets a good example."
Petzoldt, who credits Rueter for the sanitary district’s positive direction in recent years, said the wastewater treatment plant is rated in the top five out of 400 installations in North American by the Parkson Corp., manufacturer of the plant’s process equipment.
"It means a lot coming from our own peers here in Arizona," Petzoldt said. "It is very easy to talk about being sustainable and environmentally sound, it is quite different to actually do it. It’s not as easy as it looks."
Petzoldt credits local involvement for a lot of the sanitary district’s success, adding that the district continues to face new challenges each day to continue its level of service.
"It takes an ongoing commitment, professional knowledge, money and support from the community," Petzoldt said. "Something we have had constantly here is full support from the business community to spend whatever necessary to achieve environmentally sound, chemical-free treatment and the highest level per capita of reuse in the nation."
Rueter speaks with pride about the plant’s success with reclaim water use per capita.
"This is outside of irrigation use and in direct replacement of potable water for flushing of toilets and urinals," Rueter said. "Levels of 30 percent of the former potable water use in Tusayan are now supplied by reclaimed water. Tusayan is truly leading the pack in its efforts to conserve water through reuse for flushing toilets and urinals, xeriscaping and low flush devices."
The sanitation district has plans for future success with its reclaim system in Tusayan. Rueter said they’re about 80 percent there.
"It is a goal to eventually have all toilets using reclaim water here," Rueter said. "We are about at 80 percent of that goal. Many U.S.A. cities and towns use reclaim for golf courses and irrigation, but very few if any, are actively flushing with reclaim. And we are able to get that message out to the world because of the unique visitation here."
Among the system’s positives, according to Rueter:
o Sludge is being composted for recycling as a soil mix.
o An alternate fire suppression system with hydrants throughout Tusayan has been established.
o A district access road, which has resolved other traffic issues harmoniously with the community and has provided a safe place for people to jog and walk, was constructed.
o A natural recharge basin in Coconino Wash now exists which is frequently home to eagles, herons and other waterfowl. Thirsty elk and deer also come in to drink.
o The district donates reclaim water to the Arizona Fish and Game for its water hauling to remote tanks in dry periods.
o The natural recharge basin serves as an emergency backup for water in fighting fires.
"We have planned for the future and are ready for changes or growth in the community with a comfortable margin of capacity already constructed," Rueter added. "We actually lowered our treatment rates 7.5 percent last year. The Biolac wastewater treatment process is a chemically-free organic process selected specifically for this environment."
The current sanitary district board includes Chris Thurston, Pete Shearer, Wayne Johnson, Robbie Evans and Ed Ramsey. Along with Petzoldt, Rueter had kind words for the district’s key people.
"Robert Petzoldt is one of the top operators in the state along with a great board of directors. He participates with educating the youth on Earth Day and comes up with projects for the Northern Arizona Rural Trust kids," Rueter said. "Once a year, he directs a household hazardous waste collection program.
"A couple of directors who have put in thousands of unpaid hours over the years are Chris Thurston and Pete Shearer," he added. "All of them (including other current board members) add great depth and diversity to the board."
Rueter said the Northern Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s Jerry Breckinridge assisted the district and showed patience "until we got it right." In addition, Rueter thanks ADEQ’s continuing help and mentioned several other individuals and organizations.
"Without everyone’s hard work, cooperation and support, we just couldn’t have achieved this honor," Rueter said. "My hat is of especially to the residents and businesses that together make this a community effort."
Helping others follow in Tusayan’s footsteps is another goal of the sanitation district.
"Tusayan hopes others will follow our example and is willing to share what we have learned," Rueter said. "We have been using reclaimed water in different forms since 1975. We also applaud the new efforts the Grand Canyon National Park is making with use of reclaimed water and hope they will support modification of their hotels to go on reclaim for toilet flushing in all their facilities."
Rueter said he hopes a reclaim water symposium will be held in Tusayan in the near future.
"We have visitors who come from different countries and states to see the plant now so it could be great symposium for everyone to share ideas," he said. "Just think if the whole country did what we have. There would be a lot more water to go around."
The Arizona Water Pollution Control Association’s president Charlotte Waddle presented the award to Rueter and Petzoldt. The group is a premier water and wastewater organization made up of operators, professionals, cities, towns and districts in Arizona. Each year, the association recognizes the outstanding entities in the state at a three-day convention in Mesa.