Success Story: Zeeland Clean Water Plant Leverages EDA Grant to Build Capacity
Only about 5,500 people live in Zeeland, Michigan, but that number can triple during the workday as employees flock to several manufacturing businesses in the area.
The influx puts extra demand on the city’s wastewater treatment plant, originally built in 1915. However, thanks to a $2 million grant from EDA in 2014, combined with a matching local contribution, the Zeeland Clean Water Plant was expanded and can now easily handle the extra demand.
Aerial view of the Zeeland Clean Water Plant in Zeeland, Michigan
The $14 million project, completed in June 2018, has helped boost the local economy. According to grantee estimates, as of September 2020, the project has led to more than 275 jobs and has generated more than $88 million in private investment. Two Zeeland businesses – one focused on making auto parts and the other on plastic products – are responsible for a significant share of the job creation.
Zeeland City Manager Tim Klunder added that the extra capacity will create further economic growth in the city. In 2014, Zeeland had not yet reached full capacity, but they were on the precipice of needing to expand.
“We were looking to the future,” Klunder recalled. “We wanted to make sure that someday when an industry was going to come to us and say, ‘We’re going to expand,’ we don’t have to say ‘Sorry, we don’t have the capacity.’”
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Zeeland’s Clean Water Plant was processing 2.2 million gallons per day. Today, that number has dropped to 1.8 million gallons per day. As businesses reopen, the plant will be well situated to handle the increased demand, as it is ultimately capable of processing 3.5 million gallons per day.
The expansion also allowed for the city to support nearby Zeeland Township and Holland Township. Holland Township’s decision to shift a portion of their wastewater to the Zeeland Clean Water Plant allowed for the city of Holland to free up some capacity for its own increased demand, and the three communities now partner to oversee the plant’s operations.
The expansion project has made the Zeeland Clean Water Plant a model for efficiency and sustainability. In 2020, it was recognized with both the Water Environment Federation’s “Utility of the Future Today” award and Michigan’s “Premier Utility Management Performance (PUMP)” award.
“We are proud of our facility and the level of efficiency that our wastewater staff maintains,” said Doug Engelsman, superintendent of the wastewater plant.
As part of the expansion project, new technology was installed to monitor and make adjustments remotely during off-hours using smartphones or tablets. Energy consumption is adjusted in real-time using probes that monitor and control the aeration system based on demand-maximizing cost savings.
The plant processes wastewater using a new treatment process known as biological phosphorous removal. The cleaned water, free of chemicals, is released into a stream, which flows into Lake Macatawa and then into the iconic and beautiful Lake Michigan. The lake has shores not only along Michigan’s western shoreline but also in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Drinking water for the region is also pulled from Lake Michigan.
“That’s why it’s so important that all communities clean and properly treat their wastewater,” Engelsman said.