McDowell Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of the most technologically advanced in removing nutrients and enhancing downstream water quality. Sustainable innovations are nothing new to operators. Since 2001, sugar water has been used at the McDowell plant as an acetic acid substitute. It’s a win-win for Charlotte Water and local businesses when both save money by reusing a waste product.
Sugar water is produced when the soft drink manufacturers have expired or out-of-date products that they have pulled from store shelves and need to dispose of it. It is also produced when the manufacturers make a bad batch of cola and/or need to wash down the processing equipment. This sugar water is used as an organic carbon food source for microorganisms (bugs) that remove phosphorous and nitrogen during the wastewater treatment process. Because McDowell’s effluent discharges into a nutrient-sensitive creek, operators use advanced treatment techniques to also remove nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorous from water.
The sugar water is a safe, cheap alternative that significantly reduces the use of acetic acid in the treatment process, reducing resource consumption and making use of waste that would otherwise need to be disposed of. The soft drink manufacturer gives it to CLTWater for free and CLTWater pays for the shipping. The process saves ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
If you had any doubt about the quality of your water, hopefully you can put those concerns to rest after hearing what exactly goes into ensuring your water quality every single day with Charlotte Water.
Your drinking water and wastewater are rigorously tested with hundreds of samples passing through the labs in our Charlotte Environmental Services Facility daily. In fact, in 2022 it was reported that Charlotte Water performed over 170,000 tests on both unregulated and regulated substances!
Samples arrive from all the wastewater treatment facilities, drinking water treatment facilities, and sampling stations placed around the region. From the moment the sample comes through the door, the samples are checked in with careful quality control measures to be sure the samples are not contaminated and fit for further testing.
After the check-in phase, a water sample can go through a variety of tests. The lab has sections committed to testing for grease and oils, biological compounds, nutrients, and metals just to name a small few out of the hundreds of compounds they test. To get an idea of how far the lab goes to test samples, they have several mass spectrometers used regularly to test samples down to a molecular level.
The lab technicians are well-trained and passionate individuals that all have a heart for public service. I had the chance to tour the lab for several hours one afternoon and spoke to many of the techs, and all of them expressed passion for their work and take their role extremely seriously.
Did you know you can review the results of our water quality testing? The 2022 report is available to you and is made available every year for public viewing! You can check out the report here .
Building a house? Planting a rose bush? Digging a hole to beat Nicolas Cage in finding the third National Treasure stockpile? Before you do any of these things, it’s important to call 811.
When you call or log an 811 ticket on the 811 website, it triggers a multitude of utilities to investigate your request and Charlotte Water is one of them. Once a request is received, a Locates Technician is dispatched to the site and marks the area where the water line is underground.
The Locates group has their hands full, as they respond to all calls whether it’s a small job or a large construction project. In fact, it is reported that this team responds to a minimum of over 1,000 requests every month alone. On top of that, not all jobs are straightforward. Some pipe is laid in unusual ways to avoid features such as storm drains or manholes. While these situations are quickly resolved by an experienced technician, it does still take time to recognize variances in surroundings and mark them appropriately.
Jorge Arango, Locates Supervisor, shared with me that technicians have to learn to trust their equipment rather than assume where they anticipate the water pipes to be located underground. Fortunately, the team has access to some pretty cool tools! Featured in the picture below is a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) tool to assist in locating difficult water pipes and mains.
Without calling 811 first, you risk damaging water, sewer, gas, electric, or any other utility line that runs underground. There are many teams just like the Charlotte Water team that will respond to your call for free to mark the area first before you dig. By being mindful, you save yourself and your neighbors a lot of headaches in the event you strike a line.
Most days, it is likely a regular resident served by Charlotte Water doesn’t even think about where their water comes from or the infrastructure that supports it. However, those thoughts can be at the forefront of your mind if you walk outside and see a flood in your yard from a leaky pipe or fitting.
Charlotte Water has staff on standby at all hours to receive calls about leaks all around the region and will send a tech into the field to personally investigate a problem. Relevant calls come into Dispatch, a team of individuals who man the line 24/7 to be on standby in case the worst happens.
One of the supervisors at Dispatch, Fred Moody, shared stories of his experiences during his years of service and some of the unique things he’s seen. He said that they see more calls during extreme weather, such as deep freezes, and that it’s important to bear in mind that freezes impact our pipes more than northern regions not because of aged infrastructure, but because we designed our systems to be suitable for the climate we live in.
Outside of extreme events, leaky fittings and pipes can be from a number of things and can range from a serious leak that threatens the integrity of a road to just a damp yard. Below, Danny Balose, a seasoned water service technician, listens to water running through a meter to diagnose where a leak may be coming from.
Danny has decades of experience within the area. When I was riding with him to learn more about his role, he knew where many neighborhoods were in Charlotte just by memory from his visits over the years. He holds a philosophy that each visit demands the same attention and care to get to the bottom of the problem. He is meticulous in his record keeping and commits time after each call to fill out exactly what happened.
Danny is just one of many individuals at Charlotte Water that remains dedicated to serving their community. If you see a leak in your own yard or in the street near your home, call 311 and Danny or another technician from Charlotte Water will come out to investigate.