Using ‘bugs’ in wastewater treatment

By Tim Horan, Reflector-Chronicle

The city of Abilene uses about 1.6 million gallons of water per day.

Of that, about 600,000 gallons end up at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and eventually into the Smoky Hill River.

Members of the Abilene City Commission and a couple guests toured the treatment plant located at 1014 2100 Avenue Monday as part of a study session.

Lon Schrader, director of Abilene Public Works, said the Wastewater Treatment Plant can accommodate an Abilene population of up to 10,000 people.

“It does have room for growth, which is good,” he said.

Lead Operator G.D. Hite and Operator Manager Kevin Clark led the group on a tour of the facility which is a SBR (Sequencing Batch Reactor) facility.

“It’s not like your water in, water out treatment,” Hite said. “There are four basins so they take turns filling.”


During treatment, air is turned on to give “air to the bugs that treat the water.”

The “bugs” are bacteria that remove the phosphorus, nitrogen, sodium, potassium, iron, calcium and compounds such as fats, sugars and proteins.

“There are several different types of bacteria for the different ages of our sludge that is in the basin,” Hite said. “We have young sludge that are like teenagers. They will go in there and feed real quick but they leave a mess. They won’t eat everything on their plate. That is why we have older bacteria. They will eat slower and clean up what the teenagers missed.”

Living bacteria were shown under a microscope at the plant.

Hite said that when the wastewater plant first went on line it was seeded with bacteria from the Salina wastewater facility. Since the initial addition of bacteria, the facility has never had to add any bacteria.

“As long as bacteria has food, warmth and air, they are happy,” Hite said. “They will keep eating and reproducing.”

Most of the wastewater reaches the wastewater treatment through the flow of gravity.


There are only two lift stations.

“They are in operation just because of the lack of the necessary gravity,” Schrader said. “Everything else is gravity fed.”

One is near Great Plains Manufacturing and one belongs to the Red Bud Lake Association.

The wastewater comes to the plant about 40 feet below ground and is then pumped up into the basins.

Schrader said, in abiding by Kansas Department of Health and Environment requirements and cost of infrastructure, the treated water is not recycled and drained into the Smoky Hill River “for others to use.”

Admin Galene