Wastewater to cool plant
ECUA-Gulf Power exchange brings win-win situation
Gulf Power Co. entered into an agreement Thursday with the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority to accept millions of gallons of free wastewater for use at its Crist Plant.
Once ECUA’s new sewage treatment plant is operational, Gulf Power will use the treated effluent for boiler cooling and for a scrubber designed to reduce sulfur dioxides, fine particulates and oxidized mercury emissions.
Gulf Power’s plant is located near the mouth of the Escambia River, where it draws water from the river to generate electricity at its coal-fired plant.
Using ECUA wastewater should eliminate the need to draw some 18 million gallons of water from the river each day. That’s enough water to fill 900 average in-ground swimming pools.
In turn, the ECUA will not have to discharge any of the effluent into water bodies. It now dumps 20 million gallons a day into Pensacola Bay from its downtown treatment plant.
"It’s one of the cornerstones of our central water reclamation site," ECUA board member Larry Walker said. "It’s a key part of this larger project."
Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers said: "We don’t have to take water out of the river any more and they don’t have to dump waste into the bay. It’s the right thing to do. They know it and we know it."
Last month, the ECUA board approved a $1.7 million contract for a wastewater transmission line from the new treatment plant to the Crist Plant some three miles away.
ECUA Executive Director Steve Sorrell said giving the wastewater to Gulf Power will save ECUA an initial $100 million that won’t be needed to purchase wetlands and develop spray fields to dispose of the water.
Meanwhile, the power plant must begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 as a result of new federal mercury and sulphur dioxide emission rules.
A flue gas desulphurization scrubber that Gulf Power is installing is the largest in the world, Rogers said.
The scrubbing process will produce gypsum that the utility wants to sell to drywall manufacturers. To ship the gypsum, Gulf Power is expanding its Governor’s Bayou terminal to handle more barge traffic on the river.
Eventually, ECUA would like to sell treated wastewater to homes where it can used for watering lawns and washing cars instead of more expensive potable drinking water.
For now, Sorrell said the infrastructure isn’t available to return the treated water to homes.
"Ultimately, that’s the goal, but it’s far, far beyond the money we have available," Sorrell said.
"We don’t have to take water out of the river any more, and they don’t have to dump waste into the bay. It’s the right thing to do. They know it, and we know it."
– Jeff Rogers, Gulf Power Co. spokesman