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NEWS | April 26, 2010

New water recycling system reduces usage, costs

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

A new water recycling system became fully operational April 22 at the Lackland vehicle maintenance yard that reduces the facility's yearly water usage and maintenance costs.

Lackland's first major water recycling system results in water savings of 1 million gallons a year at the maintenance yard while helping the base meet Executive Order 13514 requirements.

The order is an extension and expansion for energy conservation and efficiency first established by a 2007 executive order.

Included in the order is a mandate for federal agencies to reduce water use by 26 percent by October 2020 and implement water reuse strategies that reduce potable water consumption.

According to Michael Ferguson, 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron water conservation manager, the water recycling system collects the dirty water from washing vehicles, purifies the water by using microbes and then stores the water for reuse at a later date.
Self-generating microbes digest the soaps, fuels and oils from the wash water.

The collected water is recycled and purified to a level needed to wash the vehicles. The treated water is clear and odorless.

"We do use recycled water on base, but this is our first recycling system operational here," said Mr. Ferguson. "We're very excited about it."

The new recycling system collects 100 percent of the water for reuse at the maintenance facility with a 90 percent reduction in water consumption, including an estimated 10 percent loss for evaporation and overspray. It also decreases the facility's water use and wastewater discharge by 1 million gallons annually.

Mr. Ferguson said wash water typically passes through a grit trap to filter out solids, goes through an oil- water separator for removal of fuels and oils, and then is discharged to the sanitary sewer system.

The system's microbes digest the oils naturally. It eliminates the need for an oil-water separator along with the maintenance costs and pollution chances.

Specifically designed for the vehicle maintenance yard, two more water recycling systems will be installed on base over the next several months.

One will be installed at Wilford Hall Medical Center for its vehicles, and the other at Kelly Field Annex for the C-5 cargo planes maintained by the 433rd Airlift Wing.

Lackland also reduces water consumption and usage by purchasing recycled water from the San Antonio Water System to irrigate the golf course and parade grounds as well as supply the cooling tower next to Wilford Hall.