By Mrs Jennifer Bacchus (AMC)March 15, 2012
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Night can be a busy time for an employee of Anniston Army Depot's Directorate of Public Works, the organization tasked with keeping the depot operational.
The Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant, Sewage Treatment Plant and Boiler Plant operate three shifts, keeping vital systems operating 24 hours a day.
The goal of these facilities is clean water. Their output flows directly into Choccolocco Creek. To ensure the discharge is environmentally compliant, equipment at both plants must be monitored continuously.
IWTP employees ensure chemicals used to treat the water and keep it at the correct pH level are pumped properly. They keep watch over the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system and perform a visual inspection of each area of the plant.
"The pumps are operated by a pH probe, so they automatically raise or lower the pH level in the tanks," said Charles Setters, an IWTP operator.
This automated system is an important feature of the newly constructed IWTP, which was completed in early 2011.
"At the former IWTP, employees had to adjust processes constantly, because of the varying pH levels in the water. The pH level varies, based on the process the water comes from. Now, those adjustments are made automatically," said Dustin Gillihan, a depot environmental engineer.
According to Setters, plant operators never know exactly which shops or processes water will flow from at any given time. This is where the automated system is most useful.
"Employees at the IWTP never know what is going to be coming in to the plant from the shops or how that wastewater will affect the pH, so the automated system works very well," said Setters.
To handle sludge from the industrial processes, the plant utilizes presses, which remove liquid from the waste product. This leaves a solid, which can be taken to a landfill while the removed water is processed by the plant.
Letting off Steam
ANAD has a total of 20 boiler plants -- one main plant with two large boilers and 19 satellite plants.
Each plant sends steam to the shops at a different pressure -- ranging from 10 to 150 pounds per square inch. The main boiler plant operates at 150 psi, while the others are often set much lower.
Operation of this steam-producing equipment is a 24-hour job as each boiler must be checked at least twice a shift to ensure proper operation.
"Basically, we check the safety mechanisms," said Craig Stillwell, a boiler plant operator, as he explained the systems in place to ensure none of the boilers overheat.
"These boilers are all automatically controlled with new burners put into service in 2006," said boiler plant operator Johnny Sweatt.
It takes about three hours to check all 20 plants. If anything is wrong with the machinery in one or more of them, they are checked more frequently.
Though the boiler plants are needed to heat the shops a few months of each year, caring for them is a year-round job, since they must be disassembled and carefully cleaned when not in service.
In one of DPW's shops on the west side of the depot, a two-man team works through the night to give preventative maintenance and needed care to an array of work vehicles owned by the depot and its tenants.
These caregivers work on the forklifts, tow tractors and EZ-gos needed to accomplish the depot's mission. By performing maintenance tasks at night, the vehicles are ready to go when needed on the day shift.
Each month, Dustin Medders and George Moore receive a list of more than 100 vehicles to inspect and maintain.
On average, the shop performs preventative maintenance on 166 vehicles per month.
"We try to service 10 to 12 vehicles each night," said Richard Moses, supervisor for the forklift repair shop.
Because they have a tight schedule, DPW relies on the operators and organizations using the equipment to deliver it to the shop in a timely manner.
If a forklift or tow tractor does not arrive when it is scheduled for preventative maintenance, it increases the facility's workload later in the month, making it difficult to put every piece of equipment into service on time.
Medders and Moore can easily tell which equipment receives regular care from its operator as the vehicles not inspected and maintained on a daily basis often require more work in the repair shop.
Since that extra time can cause a lag in the depot's repair and overhaul processes, taking the time each day to perform necessary tasks can pay off, according to Medders and Moore.