The City of Rochelle and Rochelle Municipal Utilities proudly announce the opening of the City’s first radium removal plant located at Well 11, just North of Flagg Road. The $2.7million plant is the culmination of a two-year project to rid Rochelle’s water supply of excess radium.
The plant utilizes state-of-the art technology and safety measures. Liquid chlorine is used in place of chlorine gas which reduces risk to workers and the surrounding community. The plant uses supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) to communicate to plant operators electronically and to alert staff of any potential problems immediately.
“Nearly everything that could’ve gone wrong did during construction – the plant was struck by lightning and a valve malfunction occurred,” said RMU Water Superintendent Adam Lanning. “But once we brought the plant up for operation, our first radium test result was well below the limit. We got this right on the first try.”
RMU water staffers mix and add chemicals to find the exact “target dose” to treat the water filtered through the plant. Water is pumped in from the underground well, through a sand separator where pre-chlorine and the hydrous manganese oxide (HMO) injection occurs. The HMO binds radium to create an insoluble substance that is then filtered out of the water. From there the water enters the sand filtration system, receives a second chlorine injection to chlorinate and kill any remaining bacteria. Finally, the fluoride and phosphate are added, and the water enters the City’s distribution system. First test results showed just 1.2 pci/l of radium in the water. The IEPA’s limit is 5 pci/l and prior to the plant’s construction, test results showed readings as high as 14.05 pci/l.
The radium removal plant’s architecture was designed to match the surrounding area and existing buildings with large South-facing windows for natural light. The site elevation was raised by 2.5 feet to take the area out of a flood plain. Construction included the extension of a two-lane road from 20th Street to the Well. The project was financed through a low-interest IEPA loan program which offers forgiveness of $500,000 of the project.