According to a second grade Newton girl scout, a massive pile of polymer-injected bio-solids removed from treated sewer water at the Newton Wastewater Treatment Plant smelled like Hot Pockets.

That sentiment was likely not shared among the adults, who, along with second grade Newton Brownie Girl Scout Troop 40240, participated in Wednesday afternoon’s (city led) tour of the plant.

To those able to view the differing treatment stations of the plant, the dirtiness of the job is both expected and understood.

However, those who attended the tour from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, which was entitled “Follow the Flush!” had a chance to see how extensive the process of cleaning sewer water truly is.

When flushed toilet or sink water disappears into the piping, it is easy to underestimate the many complex steps in the process before that water leaves the plant.

Sewage from the sanitary sewer collection system first enters the plant at an Influent Pump Station. This begins the process of removing large floating material and coarse solids from the wastewater. That material is then placed in odorous green dumpsters and hauled to the landfill.

Whatever wastewater has passed through the Influent Pump is then directed to the second floor of the Headworks Building, where it enters drum screens. The screens work like a sieve, rotating the water in a barrel with thousands of small holes and removing any solid particles greater than 1 millimeter.

Any water passing through the Headworks Building then moves into the Biological Treatment Basin (BTB) by gravity. Water enters one side of the basin, and in the event of higher than usual flow, water enters the other side. While there, the water undergoes what is referred to as secondary treatment.

In the BTB, the secondary treatment process uses zones to manipulate microorganisms to achieve nutrient removal, in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus, before it is discharged back into the environment.

These zones, which are anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic, also reduce the amount of biochemical oxygen demand in the wastewater.

After being in the Biological Treatment Basin, wastewater undergoes aerobic digestion in Bio-Solids Handling.

The digestion process, which uses a basin, air consumption and decanting equipment, encourages microorganisms to consume any and all available food. Once their food is gone, the microorganisms cannibalize until they become a nutrient-rich mass.

Water from that basin is then sent back to the front of the plant and the mass is sent through the centrifuge.

That mass is then injected with a polymer which helps it to become a dense product referred to as “cake.” In controlled ways, “cake” can be used in fields of crops.

After leaving Bio-Solids Handling, wastewater enters its final stop – the Ultraviolet Light System (UV) Building.

After passing through large clarifiers, the water is sent to an area where a number of bulbs, producing highly concentrated UV rays alter the microorganisms left in the water.

During this process, any disease causing organisms are destroyed to the point that they cannot reproduce. This ensures they will not have a negative impact on the environment or the receiving stream.

Once the UV process is complete, the water is directed to one of four locations: Slate Creek, the Plant Reuse Water System, Sand Creek Station Golf Course or the wetlands.

Aside from treating water, the plant also has an extensive lab, designed to enable proper testing of water. The lab at the plant is accredited through the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Both KDHE and the EPA recognize the lab as an absolute authority in the testing process, although there are a few tests the lab is not certified to perform. Due to time and equipment constraints, the city outsources those tests to a private lab.

At the end of the tour, City Manager and Senior Counsel Bob Myers spoke with visitors as they were able to (ironically) drink some lemonade and snack on fun-sized chocolate bars.

Myers said Newton citizens have quite an investment in the plant, so the city thinks it is important for them to see where their money is going.

While Myers said nobody was thrilled to see the plant surcharge fee go into effect in the first place, once the city got the word out on why they were having to implement it, people understood.

Since the city commission decided to keep the sewer treatment fee in place and pay down the debt more quickly, Myers said he has only heard a positive response. Also, Myers said those who initially resisted the idea are starting to understand the benefits of the decision.

“Financially, I think it’s the only responsible thing to do,” Myers said.

Even though the event was rescheduled from the previous day, due to severe weather warnings, Myers said the city was pleased with a large turnout for the tour.


Improvements to the wastewater treatment plant (since opening) include:

• Excavation and grading of an adjacent floodway channel.

• Construction of a 3-span reinforced concrete span haunched bridge, 30 foot roadway

• Demolition of existing bridge

• Demolition of six concrete structures

• Construction of concrete structural modifications

• Construction of new concrete wastewater process basins

• Installation of wastewater process equipment

• Construction of underground process piping

• Construction of indoor process piping

• Construction of structural steel walkways and platforms

• Construction of electrical power distribution

• Construction of emergency power system

• Construction of HVAC systems

• Installation, programming, and implementation of process SCADA controls

• Construction of site grading and paving improvements 

• Installation verification and startup of process equipment