The city will switch cleaning processes at its three water treatment plants – Mauldin Road, Brittany Drive and Kirby Road - over to sodium hypochlorite from chlorine gas. City council members approved the change during their Monday, Feb. 28, meeting.
Chlorine gas, explained City Utilities General Manager Kelly Cornwell, is very hazardous and requires training for local emergency response personnel like firefighters each year. Using chlorine gas became a homeland security risk after 9/11.
The city will be able to eliminate “quite a bit of expense” without a need for the training, Cornwell said.
The switch will also mean more safety for Calhoun residents.
Wind blowing toward nearby soccer fields from the direction of the Mauldin Road plant could be hazardous in the event of a “catastrophic failure” at that plant if the city were using chlorine gas, Cornwell said. He added that the city has never had a major spill or leak.
Sodium hypochlorite is a much safer substance, he said; treatment plants in metro areas with hundreds of thousands of people have switched largely to sodium hypochlorite for safety purposes.
“The real value (in changing) is for the risk that’s there,” he said. “We feel like that it is in the best interests of the city.”
The most significant cost savings will come in the form of reduced power costs; the main expense in using sodium hypochlorite lies in the electricity needed to generate it.
Using sodium hypochlorite usually amounts to about 2 1/2 times the cost of operating with chlorine gas, Cornwell said, but the city will be able to run power off the grid at night between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Many other cities must buy the needed power from another provider, but Calhoun has its own electrical distribution system and can arrange to use power at non-peak times.
This will save the city close to $20,000 per year, Cornwell said, marking a drop from $113,000 to about $94,000.
The sodium hypochlorite will be generated at the Mauldin Road plant, Cornwell explained, and some of it will be transported to treat drinking water at Brittany Drive and wastewater at Kirby Road.
Also during the Feb. 28 meeting, council members:
*Voted to deny a request for a loan from a local resident from the city’s revolving loan fund, based on a recommendation from the revolving loan committee. The loan would have been used to purchase a local cleaning business, but Council Member George Crowley explained the committee’s recommendation was based on several factors, including the fact that the applicant would have been unable to produce the necessary amount of equity in collateral value.
*Gave the Calhoun Police Department permission to spend $700 in asset seizure funds to purchase a “Hotdog” for a squad car. This is a temperature monitoring “safety device,” according to Maj. Larry Gilbert with the Calhoun PD, that helps protect K9 officers in warmer weather. There are times when it is necessary for an officer to leave a K9 in a squad car for a short time, Gilbert explained. If the car temperature begins to rise, the Hotdog allows for the back windows to be lowered to stabilize the temperature, Gilbert said, and an alarm alerts the officer of the temperature change. The city PD currently has two K9 officers.