Progress has been slowed but continues on the addition to the Pratt Water Treatment Facility on Country Club Road.

Continual rains have put the construction project behind about two weeks but it should still completed by the December deadline, said Pratt City Manager Dave Howard.

The long range forecast is fairly dry and that should help keep the project moving along.

A lot of piping has to be completed as well as the installation of a belt compressor. One building is up and the foundation for another has been poured.

The new belt compressor will compact the waste sludge and get rid of almost all of the water, making it much easier to dispose the waste product, Howard said.

The solid material is grit and dirt. What water is left over is returned to the treatment process.

At the same time the new process will make the water that is returned to the Ninnescah River will be much better and meet current industry standards.

"The solids are much more efficient," Howard said.

Along with the belt compressor, the digestive process will be changed from an anaerobic (airless) digester to an aerobic digester (air digestion), Howard said.

All together, it is a complicated project that costs about $1 million with funds from a low interest loan.

Before the conversion, the treatment facility put out a sludge that had to be 96 percent liquid so it could be applied to farmers' fields. While this got rid of the sludge, the process was also dependent on dry fields so the vehicles could get into the fields and spread it on the land.

"This was not efficient for our plant size," Howard said.

Finding land to spread the sludge cost money. If a field was close it didn't take much fuel to haul the sludge and spread it if the field was dry.

However, some of the fields were quite a distance away and it took a lot of fuel to haul the sludge to fields and then more to make the trip back.

If the fields were too wet, like this year, the spreading trucks couldn't get into the fields so the material had to stay at the treatment facility. The sludge had to be continuously rotated within the system and that made the sludge product going back more polluted.

The longer the sludge was going through the digestive process the more likely it would produce the wrong kind of organic growth, Howard said.

With the moisture removed, the dryer product can be removed more efficiently and that will save the city money because it keeps the facility in compliance with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment plus the Environmental Protection Agency.

The environmental regulations for returning waste product into a stream or river are very stringent so this method makes it easier to meet those regulation requirements.

A dry sludge product can actually be taken to the landfill for disposal so it is much less dependent on dry weather and miles to be traveled.