Several changes are made in water treatment method, and the new plant has a smaller footprint than the old plant.

Some very impressive heavy equipment is in operation just north of Third Street on the east side of King Arroyo bridge. It is being used by Moltz Construction out of Salida to build the new waste water treatment plant for the City of La Junta. Our guide for the tour of the construction site is Bob Lucero, the waste water manager. A hard hat and orange vest are required.

As big as everything looks, Lucero said this is a Class B facility, suitable for a city the size of La Junta with the industry located here. Lucero and Dean Knoell both have Level A waste water licenses and Level 2 collection licenses. The certification credentials of ten members of the waste water team hang in the office at the plant. They are proud of the training of the men. This office will remain in use for the new facility. Most of the old facility will eventually be removed, including the old yellowish-white brick head return building and surrounding buildings, constructed in 1957.

Lucero was hired from Pueblo in 1981 by the then Director of Water and Waste Water Harold Scofield. Lucero gave a sketch of the history of waste water in our city, from the original method, which was settling out the waste water in a pond with a sand bottom before just dumping it back in the arroyo, from there to flow back into the Arkansas River. How times have changed! That first system was constructed in 1929, when the city purchased the land where the facility now stands.

In 1930, they build a wet well under the tracks and ran the water through pumps, so now they could measure the return water. The 1957 construction was the first actual treatment of the waste water. The wet well grit system and the No. 1 aeration basin were added. In 1968, the primary clarifier and another aeration basin and digesters were added. In 1975, a chlorine contact basin was added and treatment of the effluent was added, along with a main office and two chlorine tanks. From 1985 to ’87 the plant expansion revamped the headworks building. They also put in the third aeration tank and the blower system, added a second clarifier and added sulphur dioxide treatment to dechlorinate the water before it went back into the river. Lucero said at that time the standard for chlorine in the water returning to the river was 225 parts per million. Now it is 0.25 parts per million and likely soon to be 0.

At the new plant, the latest techniques are employed, and chlorine is replaced by ultraviolet light. The main feature of the new plant is yet to be built. It is called the orbal aeration building and will be a huge round building sitting right up by Third Street. When the waste water reaches this building, the rest of the operation is by gravity feed. The City has a five year contract with Veris to compact and remove the waste solids after the process is complete.

Lucero introduced the Moltz Construction Site Manager Darrin Howell. Construction is ahead of schedule at the present time. Concrete continues to be poured even during very cold weather. The mixture of the concrete is adjusted and heat blankets are applied during the curing process. Some local people are employed by Moltz, coming from the surrounding areas of Las Animas, Rock Ford, Olney Springs, etc. as well as La Junta. Lyle’s Plumbing is laying the pipes - a big job, because they are buried deep.

Also still to be constructed are the ultraviolet building, the grit collection and building. Howell estimates construction to be completed and the system switched before the end of 2019. Switching of the system will begin before that. As people say when they don’t completely understand, “It’s complicated.” Kudos to Bob Lucero for a good tour. If you contact him first, he will do the same for you.