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Shaping up the water

North Liberty facility improves water capacity and quality
Maintenance Specialist Nick Bowman (right) gives residents a tour of North Liberty’s new water treatment plant during the Wednesday, June 20, open house. The new plant, which went online in May, is able to provide up to 3 million gallons of high-quality water to North Liberty’s homes, schools and businesses, and is expected to sustain the growing population for many years. (photo by Cale Stelken)

NORTH LIBERTY– With the turn of a faucet, the residents of North Liberty have a new reason to rejoice.
On Wednesday, June 20, the City of North Liberty held an open house to celebrate the unveiling of its new water treatment plant at 433 S. Front St. City staff invited residents in for a comprehensive tour of the plant, which went online in May, and to explain its benefits to the community.
The $20 million facility currently treats about 1.5 million gallons a day, providing high-quality water to North Liberty’s homes, schools and businesses. It’s capable, however, of treating up to three million gallons and serving up to 24,000 residents. Room has also been allotted to double its output to six million gallons in the next decade if necessary. The facility pulls water from the Jordan and Silurian aquifers, with nine wells currently installed. Shive-Hattery designed the building, Fox Engineering was responsible for the process design and Riesberg Engineering handled the electrical controls for the new facility.
In comparison, the city’s old water plant, built in the 1970s, had a peak flow of two million gallons per day. Located at 295 S. Chestnut St., it is now used by city staff as a workshop.
In addition to being able serve well beyond the near 19,000 population of North Liberty, one of the fastest growing cities in the State of Iowa, the new water treatment plant has also improved its water quality and taste. It does so by using reverse osmosis, which removes many inorganic impurities from drinking water, and nanofiltration technology, which removes microbes, most natural organic matter and some natural minerals such as divalent ions, which cause hard water. The result is a water hardness reduction to about 7 grains per gallon, roughly half of its previous 12 grains per gallon.
The entire developmental process from concept to completion took about six years. Steve Troyer, vice president of Fox Engineering, described to attendees of the open house the timeline leading to North Liberty’s new treatment plant.
“We started this process back in 2012 with the planning of the facility, working with city staff and trying to meet the future needs of North Liberty and improve the water quality at the same time,” he recalled.
“In 2014, we did a pilot study where Greg operated a small unit system for about four or five months, and once the results of that came back really good, we went to design and had a great design team work for very closely with city staff throughout this process.”
The 21-month construction of the facility began in the fall of 2016 under Portzen Construction.
“I was very excited to be involved in this project, was proud of the design and final product and hope all of you in the city are as well. It should serve the city for a long time coming,” he remarked.
City Administrator Ryan Heiar made a point to credit Portzen Construction as well as the devoted, tenured staff of the water plant: Nick Bowman, James Pretasky, Mike Keating, Shannon Kopecky and Water Superintendant Greg Metternich.
“We really are fortunate to have an experienced group here operating this plant,” noted Heiar. “Without their efforts, we wouldn’t have what we have today.”
“We’ve very proud of this facility. We hope that the water you’re drinking and using at home is tasting great and, as we know, is a better quality,” he summarized.
Mayor Terry Donahue thanked the several dozen attendees for braving the storm for the occasion, and capped off the city’s achievement by leading a (water) toast to the new treatment plant.