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Columbus, Nebraska, USA
Columbus Wastewater Treatment Facility
14th Ave South
Columbus, Nebraska, 68601

Contact Information:
Contact:  Chuck Thomerson
Email:  pwesdir@columbusne.us
Telephone:  402-562-4234
Fax:  402-562-4265

Plant Operation: Municipal

Processing: Wastewater

Web site:

Plant/Process Description:
The Wastewater Treatment Division operates the City’s Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF). Wastewater from Columbus and areas outside the City is treated at the WWTF located in the southern part of the community. The area is served by separate sanitary and storm sewer systems. Stormwater is discharged to nearby watercourses.

The facility was expanded in 1989 for additional treatment capacity by utilizing mixing and aeration of the wastewater, microorganisms, and oxygen. Also secondary clarification, followed by the chlorination-dechlorination process for proper disinfection prior to post-aeration and discharging the treated effluent to the Loup River to meet additional permit requirements at that time. Solids from the primary and secondary clarifiers are aerobically digested, dewatered and disposed of by land application on farmland.

The facility is classified as an activated sludge wastewater treatment facility. The facility has a design capacity of 4.5 million gallons per day (MGD) and design loadings of just fewer than 10,000 pounds of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD5) per day and 8,400 pounds of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) per day.

In 1995, a new permit limitation requiring the removal of ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) was placed on the facility. The original facility was not designed to remove the NH3-N because there were no limits or foreseeable limits being imposed at the time. The need for nitrifying has substantially decreased, by approximately forty- percent, the secondary treatment units’ treatment (aeration) capacity. This facility handles an average of over 3.8 MGD of wastewater.

The City is experiencing growth; in both population and industry. Columbus is unique in that it has a large amount of industry for its size. To determine the future treatment needs of the City, the wastewater production of the municipal and industry portions were projected separately. Projected wastewater flows for 2020 are anticipated to be approximately 3.0 MGD Municipal and 2.50 Industrial for an estimated capacity requirement of 5.5 MGD.


The decision was made to expand the facility onto the protected side of the flood levee. After careful consideration of the several options available for the expansion; the City chose to construct the Orbal Aeration Process as well as a Class “A” Biosolids Process Facility.

The new administration building includes the supervisor's office, the lab (pictured on the right), a combination lunch room/conference training room, restrooms with lockers and showers.

The multi-channel oxidation ditch is a closed loop activated sludge system composed of three (3) concentric oval channels. The influent flow, which carries the food source, enters the outer channel where there is minimal oxygen transfer. The microbes live and compete to break down the food source for oxygen, then to the middle channel (where they compete with one another for survival and the oxygen transfer is increased) and finally to the inner channel (where even more oxygen transfer is increased to keep the microbes alive).

The effluent from the inner channel flows to the secondary clarifiers for settling in a quiescent state, which allows the solids and microbes to settle and the supernatant (water) flows over the weirs to the disinfection process. The settles solids; that is, the return activated sludge (RAS) from the secondary clarifier is pumped back to the outer channel to maintain the desired concentration of mixed liquor or microbe inventory.

The oxygen transfer is accomplished with disc aerators. The shaft speed, number of discs in operation, and the submergence of the discs in the mixed liquor can all be varied to maintain the desired dissolved oxygen concentration. In order to control the inventory (concentration) within the oxidation ditch, some of the RAS is taken out of the return, also known as waste activated sludge (WAS) to the digesters for solids processing.

The oxidation ditch operates at less horsepower to satisfy the oxygen demand to stabilize the waste. Therefore the power costs for this system will be less than the aeration basin system currently in use. The improvements for this alternative on the protected side of the levee included one Oxidation Ditch (3 Channels), two (2) Final Clarifiers, a Flow Splitter Structure and a Pump Station (Influent/RAS/WAS/Scum); as well as the Class “A” Biosolids Process Facility.

With this 3.0 MGD expansion, the City will have a combined treatment capacity of 7.5 MGD.


The Bioset Process is a lime stabilization and pasteurization process used to produce Class “A” biosolids. The waste activated sludge (WAS) and primary sludge are pumped through a plug-flow Bioset Reactor that essentially consists of a large insulated and monitored pipe or vessel. Inside the reactor, the lime reacts with the water in the sludge and the addition of acid to generate heat. The temperature and pressure of the biosolids increase and are maintained throughout the process. This heat, in conjunction with the 30-minute detention time destroys pathogens and reduces the volatile solids content of the biosolids creating a stabilized product. The stabilized biosolids are stored on a covered pad until either land applied or sold.

If the Class “A” biosolids meets the “Exceptional Quality” standards for the Heavy Metal concentrations, then the biosolids can be:

1. Disposed of in bulk or bags or other containers.

2. There are no site restrictions for the disposal of the biosolids.

3. There are no general requirements or management practices that must be followed when disposed.

If the biosolids are Class “A”, but do not meet the requirements of “Exceptional Quality” then the biosolids can only be disposed of in bulk quantities and the outlined site and crop management practices in 40 CFR Part 503 must be followed. However, these requirements are still not as stringent as the Class “B” biosolids requirements. This facility processes over 600 dry metric tons of biosolids each year.
City of Columbus
Web site:  http://www.columbusne.us
Operating Company:

Web site:  http://

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