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The City of Albuquerque has begun development of a vacuum sewer system for sanitary sewer collection in the North and South Valleys of the Albuquerque metropolitan area. Vacuum sewers systems were chosen over conventional systems due to shallow groundwater and extremely flat terrain. Begun in the early 1990's and constructed with no odor control facilities, several completed vacuum sewer systems produced odor with several complaints from adjacent residents. One of the three original systems has been retrofitted with odor control equipment to minimize discharge of odors. Subsequent vacuum sewer systems were also designed with odor control facilities included in the design.

At the Los Padillas facility, adjacent residents complained about the odors soon after the vacuum station became operational. A major reason for the odors was a slow response to connect to the vacuum sewer that dramatically increased the time the sewage was held in the pipes increasing H2S formation. Due to land constraints at the vacuum station, compost-filled tray-type biofilter odor control equipment was chosen to be placed on the discharge of the vacuum pumps. Several problems were identified during and after equipment installation. The equipment chosen was generally designed to operate on the intake side of the air handling unit under slight vacuum conditions. At the Los Padillas installation, the equipment was installed on the vacuum pump discharge line under slightly pressurized conditions. During normal operation of the station, seals between the media trays leaked and the O-rings were blown out of place. Also in normal design conditions for the equipment, the airflow passes through a heated humidifying unit to maintain the warmth and moisture level required for optimum odor reduction. Since the vacuum pumps discharged air from the humid sewer environment, the trays became over saturated and waterlogged, which created further operational problems. Subsequent to the installation of the tray-type odor biofilters, full size wet scrubbers were at one time considered to augment the operation of the existing filters. The paper will present the odor control facilities designed, problems encountered in operation and corrections completed for more satisfactory operations.

With the experience of the Los Padillas facility in mind, further designs of vacuum station sites included compost biofilters for odor control. Based upon experience at Albuquerque's Southside WWTP and other criteria, in-ground upflow biofilters were designed and installed. Key components included concrete construction with bitumastic applied for corrosion control, side-access ramps for compost maintenance, water sprays on timers for irrigation of compost pile, full-area plenum box under the compost pile for uniform air distribution, and a large diameter viewport pipe into the plenum area. Operation of these units designed is limited to the Area B&F vacuum station. Other units have been designed but not constructed. To-date, operations have been somewhat successful, although short-circuiting of the discharge air around the edges of the piles have been noted. Similar to other installations described above, the paper will present details of the design and the operational success and failures of the equipment installed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2002

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