Photo by Alex Simmons
A recent malfunction with a digester at the Springville Waste Water Treatment Plant caused a loud sound and concern from many village residents over the weekend. Luckily, officials say no one was hurt and village utilities were unaffected.

By Kellen M. Quigley

A malfunction at the wastewater treatment plant on Mill Street in the village of Springville caused a loud sound and concern from many residents Saturday evening.

At about 6:20 p.m. Feb. 9, a malfunction in the primary digester at the plant led to it overinflating, which caused it to burst, according to Superintendent Ken Kostowniak.

“We’re still piecing together the details,” he explained. “It was a combination of things.”

Luckily, no one was at the plant during the malfunction and no equipment was running, Kostowniak said, so no one was hurt and did not affect overall operations in the village.

“It’s just on autopilot when it’s not manned during off-hours,” he added. “There was no power outage and no fireballs.”

Kostowniak said the extremely cold temperatures, the age of the plant and a couple pieces of equipment malfunctioning all could have contributed to the incident.

The two digesters hold waste sludge and trap methane gas. The malfunction with the primary digester’s cover caused the loud boom that was heard throughout the village.

“It was just like your bike tube blowing out really badly, but on a much larger scale,” Kostowniak explained.

News of the incident spread quickly on social media as numerous posts from village residents wondering what the loud boom was flooded Facebook feeds.

“Loud explosion shook the entire house on South Central, heard and felt as far as Chestnut, anybody else hear?” one person posted in the Be Neighborly Springville Area group.

“I live on Glen street and my entire house just shook and sounded like A-bomb went off under the ground, 5 of my neighbors down the street as well are all wondering what it was and their houses shook as well,” another posted.

Others took the situation in a more humorous direction with posts joking about the sound specifically.

“There was a lot of chatter, but nobody called 911,” Kostowniak said. “They were all talking about this huge boom that shook their house and rattled their windows, but nobody picked up the phone.”

The Springville Volunteer Fire Department and village employees responded to the event. After it happened, Kostowniak said he received a text from a village employee who lives near the plant, so he immediately drove to the site.

“I called the Cheif Operator and our water and sewer lead man,” he said. “We could see from the gate and from across the creek that one of the covers was down and the other was partially inflated.”

According to Kostowniak, there were no visual indicators of fire, gasses venting or spillage at the plant. He said everything inside the building was still intact.

“We didn’t even break a light bulb,” he added.

Village officials have been investigating the incident during the past week, Kostowniak said. Although they have identified some of the potential contributing factors, he said they don’t the exact order of events that led to the event finalized.

In the meantime, repairs to the plant need to be completed. At this point, Kostowniak said they’re unsure of the total cost for repairs.

“Now that we’ve got the top open, we’ll probably do some upgrades to the internal components,” he said. “Repairs to the domes is one thing, but while we have them off we might as well upgrade the sensors, the mixing system and the piping that’s in there.”

Kostowniak said it’s a corrosive environment inside the digesters, so equipment can rust and rot.

“Now is the time to take care of it,” he added.

Fortunately, during the event and with repairs and the investigation that follow, Kostowniak said there is no danger to the public’s freshwater delivery systems, which remain fully functional.

“No other village systems are affected,” he added. “We’re still OK.”