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Bayfield Water Treatment Plant to add new, longer-lasting generator

System would be more efficient during natural disasters
Jeremy Schulz, the town of Bayfield's public works director, shows the current generator in front of the Bayfield Water Treatment Plant on Thursday. The town used $100,000 from its 2024 budget to fund a new, longer-lasting generator in this spot. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

BAYFIELD – In the event of a wildfire or some other major disaster, Bayfield officials want to ensure its water treatment plant has ample power to resume operations while tending to residents.

And it was the dreaded Bear Dance Fire near Ignacio in 2022, in which dry cottonwood trees and brush along the Pine River engulfed 89 acres of land and left more than 5,700 people temporarily without power, that prompted Bayfield public works officials to invest in a new, longer-lasting generator at the plant.

“They ended up shutting down some of the transmission lines all the way up here at the substation that we have off of Bayfield Parkway,” Bayfield Public Works Director Jeremy Schulz recalled. “At the time of that fire, we were running the old plant, which is the smaller filters. … We had to start the larger filter in the back because it has backup power generation.”

The department started looking at the water treatment plant, located at 215 E. Lakeside Drive near Bayfield High School, and it opted for a new standby natural gas generator should the facility be threatened by future wildfires. The plant’s current generators use diesel fuel.

The town of Bayfield used $100,000 of its 2024 budget to help fund the upgrade.

Schulz said the plant at this time can run at about 50% when there is an extended power outage and water services are needed, adding that it’s “plenty of capacity” for the town. Upon installing the new generator, he hopes the plant will have 100% operational capacity, even during an extended power outage or natural disaster.

“With wildfire season getting longer and things like that, we’re just looking at (water) redundancy to make sure that we have those necessary options available,” Schulz said.

Water redundancy involves backup systems that can relieve the primary systems in the event of a natural disaster.

Under the current setup, Schulz said if the power’s down, it’d take out two transformers that bring power to the facility.

“What we would need to do is merge internally the master control panels for our electricity so we can have one source that would operate all three of the filters,” he said, adding that the generators operate independently of each other and feature just one stand-alone control panel to help connect backup power. “That makes it problematic to add one backup power source to two separate power supplies.”

Jeremy Schulz, the town of Bayfield's public works director, shows the current primary backup generator in the back of the Bayfield Water Treatment Plant on Thursday. The town used $100,000 from its 2024 budget to fund a new, longer-lasting generator for the front of the facility. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)
Here is the current primary backup generator in the back of the Bayfield Water Treatment Plant on Thursday. The town used $100,000 from its 2024 budget to fund a new, longer-lasting generator for the front of the facility. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

The water treatment plant currently has two active flow water filters out front and one active flow water filter out back.

The backup power generator behind the building can help the facility produce 1 million gallons of water per day.

The new permanent backup generator for the front would replace one aging portable unit and would help the facility produce 1.5 million gallons of water per day. The other portable generator would be available to use for either the river pump station or booster stations to fill the upper pumps, Schulz said.

Unlike the current front-side portable generator, which has manual control panel operations and can only run one of the filters, the new generator would have a control switch and be automated.

The facility’s current backup power supply is located in the back. The new, future standby generator will be placed out front to the immediate right of the sign.

Schulz said he’s waiting on electrical engineering upgrades for some of the control panels in the older part of the facility before the new generator can be installed.

“That upgrade will need to be made to the water treatment facility before we can install one backup generator to run the front of the building,” he said.

If engineers involved in the project approve the new generator by or before November, Schulz said it could be installed as soon as spring 2025.

If that process is delayed past November, however, the generator would be installed in the spring or summer of 2026.

mhollinshead@durangoherald.com



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