Wastewater plant ensures water doesn’t go to waste

Air Force photograph by Kenji Thuloweit

Members of the 412th Civil Engineering Group give a tour of the Edwards Wastewater Treatment Plant to Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, Sept. 4.

Part of being the new commander at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is going on visits to different offices and locations around the base to meet his or her workforce and get to know their mission.

Members of the 412th Civil Engineer Group brought Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, to the southern part of the base Sept. 4 to show him how they turn wastewater into life-giving liquid.

The general and Col. Kirk Reagan, 412th TW vice commander, received a tour of the Edwards Wastewater Treatment Plant, where 400,000 gallons of wastewater is treated daily and pumped back to the main base where it is used to irrigate the golf course and Wings and Roberts Fields. 

Built in 1996, the wastewater treatment plant operates like many city wastewater treatment facilities. The process takes what the base populace flushes and sends down drains and turns it into reclaimed water.

“The WWTP provides continuous, cost-effective treatment of all wastewater (sewage) delivered to the facility,” said Karen Bradshaw, 412th Civil Engineer Squadron. “It ensures Edwards AFB wastewater is processed in compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations, including Department of Defense and Air Force Instructions, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit requirements, California Code of Regulations Titles 22 and 23, and State Water Resources Control Board orders.”

Thomas Allen, 412th Civil Engineer Squadron, shows how the Edwards Wastewater Treatment Plant is laid out to a tour group Sept. 4. The treatment plant was built in 1996.

According to Thomas Allen, 412th CES, the tour guide for the morning, turning wastewater into reclaimed water takes several steps with the most important part done by hundreds of different bacteria species. These common bacteria create colonies, eat waste, reproduce and die in large open treatment tanks at the plant. This digestion process creates sludge that drops to the bottom of the large tank. The cleaner water moves to the next step in the process.

The sludge is removed, dried, tested and eventually becomes part of fertilizer after going through a composting process.

The four-person staff from at the wastewater treatment plant keeps the plant conditions perfect for the bacteria. The proper mix of oxygen, water movement, concentration of bacteria and correct balance of the bacteria species is critical to the treatment process.

The Edwards WWTP is one of two treatment plants at Edwards operated by National O&M, the contractor responsible for operation, maintenance and repair of the WWTPs. The other treatment facility is located at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Rocket Lab.