Florida's Interstate-4 Provides Altamonte Springs With A Road To Sustainability

A quest for new supplies of reclaimed water led Altamonte Springs to a unique source: Interstate 4.
Florida's Interstate-4 Provides Altamonte Springs With A Road To Sustainability
Cranes Roost Park serves as a regional stormwater facility for the City of Altamonte Springs.

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Florida has been a pioneer in the development of reclaimed water infrastructure. A new project developed by engineers at the Public Works and Utilities Department in the City of Altamonte Springs has taken that concept to a higher art form.

The city has partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to capture and treat stormwater runoff from Interstate 4. The Altamonte Springs–FDOT Integrated Reuse and Stormwater Treatment (A-FIRST) project not only aims to create a reclaimed water supply totaling more than 4.5 mgd, but will also provide the nearby city of Apopka with up to 3 mgd of reclaimed water – for free.

Located a little more than 10 miles north of Orlando, Altamonte Springs implemented one of Florida’s first reclaimed water projects in the late 1980s. Dubbed A Prototype Realistic Innovative Community of Today (APRICOT), the project still forms the nucleus of the city’s reclaimed water system.

APRICOT’s backbone is a 12.5 mgd regional water reclamation facility, which provides advanced secondary wastewater treatment for several adjacent municipalities and produces almost 100 percent of the reclaimed water used by the city.

Available to all

“Unlike some cities, where reclaimed water is diverted to a few large customers, we changed that paradigm by retrofitting the city to a dual water distribution network to make reclaimed water available to every customer in Altamonte Springs,” says Ed Torres, director of Public Works and Utilities, which is responsible for the city’s water, wastewater, reclaimed water and stormwater in addition to roads, solid waste and recycling.

The concept for the A-FIRST project dates back to about 2006, when city engineers saw a significant opportunity to produce more reclaimed water, take stress off the aquifer, reduce stormwater runoff and substantially reduce pollutant loads being introduced into the Little Wekiva River. However, the elements weren’t yet aligned to make the project happen.

The big disconnect?

“A key issue that affects these types of projects is that, unfortunately, utility engineers and stormwater engineers don’t talk to each other,” says Torres. “This is true in consulting and in the public sector. However, they both have the same goal – treating water. We were missing huge opportunities by working independently. I got the utility staff together and asked them to think a little differently.”

FDOT typically builds large retention ponds to capture stormwater runoff and planned to build additional stormwater retention features as it embarked on the I-4 Ultimate Improvement Project, which will add four express lanes to the highway over a 21-mile length.

Eliminating stormwater ponds

“Those holes in the ground look awful and require regular maintenance,” says Torres. “Under our plan, FDOT could say goodbye to the expense of building the local retention pond. In addition, FDOT could eliminate construction of a 96-inch stormwater pipe and two bridges designed for flood compensation. By using additional skimmers, filtration, chlorination and the possible addition of flocculants, we could treat the highway runoff to reclaimed water standards.”

At the same time, nearby Apopka had also been looking to reduce its reliance on groundwater and had recently built new water storage reservoirs to meet the projected demand for the growing community.

“We made them an offer they couldn’t refuse,” says Torres. “We would send them our excess reclaimed water at no cost to them. They could either use it, store it or release it to the environment for aquifer recharge.”

Three main infrastructure projects would be required to complete the plan:

  • A new reclaimed augmentation facility to provide treatment of supplemental reclaimed water delivered by Peerless pumps from the city’s Cranes Roost regional stormwater facility. The project would include filtration and disinfection and would deliver the supplemental water to the city’s reclaimed system via new high-service pump stations.
  • Modification of Cranes Roost, to provide a range of flow capabilities to deliver stormwater to the reclaimed augmentation facility via a stormwater force main through the State Road 436 corridor. The stormwater basin at Cranes Roost alone could supply an average of 1.5 mgd of reclaimed water.
  • Construction of a 6-mile pipeline to deliver excess reclaimed water to Apopka’s water reclamation facility. The pipeline would consist of pipes 16 to 24 inches in diameter, and include improvements to existing infrastructure.

Overcoming negativity

“I realized that this wasn’t a cookie cutter plan that I could just submit for a permit,” says Torres. “I heard a lot of negative comments: Someone tried that before and they couldn’t do it; it’s technically too difficult; you won’t be able to get the necessary permits; the land acquisitions and easements will kill the project; and you won’t meet the schedule. I realized we needed to find open-minded champions to make it happen.”

The utility sought any opportunity to present the plan to members of FDOT, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District in order to shore up support for the project.

“Bit by bit and issue by issue, we developed a coalition of support,” says Torres. “Once FDOT came on board, it not only agreed with our plan but agreed to fund almost half of the project based on their $15 million in savings from eliminating the retention ponds and bridges.”

In addition, A-FIRST would reduce stormwater river discharges and eliminate an average of 643 pounds per year of total phosphorus (TP) and 3,259 pounds per year of total nitrogen (TN) loading to the Little Wekiva River. That includes 145 pounds of TP and 634 pounds of TN that would have been generated by construction of the I-4 Ultimate project alone.

Once funding and approvals fell into place, the project proceeded rapidly.

“In just over a year, the project went from concept alone to fully permitted with a construction contract awarded,” says Torres. “Ground was broken this summer and the system is scheduled to be fully functional by August 2015.”

Torres’ advice to utilities planning similar approaches to highway stormwater runoff?

“Arm yourself with perseverance and determination,” he says. “It was initially difficult to get my staff and the consultants to break outside the mold and see the overall project vision, but once they did, they never looked back. This project showcases the opportunities that exist when organizations look beyond traditional ways of solving the same old problems. The technology we require to do better and greater things is here now.”

More Information

Bobcat Corporate - 800/743-4340 - www.bobcat.com

CUES - 800/327-7791 - www.cuesinc.com

Esri - 800/447-9778 - www.esri.com

Harben, Inc. - 800/327-5387 - www.harben.com

John Deere - 800/503-3373 - www.johndeere.com

Peerless Pump Company - 800/879-0182 - www.peerlesspump.com

Vac-Con, Inc. - 855/336-2962 - www.vac-con.com


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