Wastewater Division Operations

Elledge Plant Wins Regional Award

Archie Elledge Wastewater Treatment Plant received the 2017 Wastewater Treatment Plant Operation & Maintenance Excellence Award, a highly sought-after regional honor. It recognizes the plant for outstanding operation and maintenance (O&M) efforts and for the best use of its resources. Learn more.

Team at Elledge plant

Where Wastewater Comes From
Each residence served produces an average of 375 gallons of wastewater (aka: sewage) every day, which amounts to more than 30 million gallons of wastewater processed daily for our 120,000 residential customers. Business and industrial users produce more than five million gallons of wastewater, bringing the total wastewater handled each day to more than 35 million gallons. Our current wastewater processing capacity is 51 million gallons daily.

Wastewater is moved from its originating source, whether residential, business or industrial, to two strategically located processing facilities through a network of 1,800 miles of sewer mains and 49 wastewater pump stations.

How Wastewater is Treated
Wastewater treatment begins with the removal of debris through bar screens and a Grit Chamber, where the debris settles to the bottom of the chamber and is removed. From there, the wastewater is passed to Primary Clarifiers where other solid material settles to the bottom as sludge and is removed along with scum which forms on the Primary Clarifiers’ surface. Once these materials are removed, the wastewater enters the Activated Sludge Basin, or a set of chambers where microbes remove contaminants. This process is facilitated by the pumping of air into the chambers. Once the contaminants have been removed, the wastewater moves to the Final Clarifier, where the water is separated from the remaining heavier-than-water material.

Once all solid matter has been removed, the water moves to a Chlorine Chamber, where chlorine is used to kill bacteria. The water then filters through a Contact Basin that holds the water for about 90 minutes while the chlorine disinfects the water. Once treatment is completed, which typically requires 24 hours, the water is returned to the Yadkin River at Muddy Creek’s confluence with the river. 

Wastewater Treatment Facilities
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities operates two wastewater treatment facilities, although many residents refer to them as “sewer plants.”  The term “sewer” is most commonly associated with human waste from homes and restaurants. In addition to this waste stream, the treatment facilities must treat wastewater generated by a variety of industries in Forsyth County. Currently, approximately 12 percent of the wastewater treated at these facilities originates from an industrial process.

Archie Elledge Wastewater Treatment Plant is located on the southwestern side of Winston-Salem and began operating in 1958, with the capacity to treat 18 million gallons of wastewater per day. Since that time, it’s treatment capacity has grown to 30 million gallons per day (MGD). After the thorough wastewater treatment process described above, the Elledge Plant releases the treated, environmentally compatible water into Salem Creek, the receiving stream.

Muddy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is located on the southern border of Forsyth County and is permitted for 21 million gallons per day of residential and industrial wastewater. The plant discharges its treated effluent into the Yadkin River. 

Maintenance and Warehouse
The Maintenance and Warehouse units provide the staff expertise and replacement parts for the repairs necessary to keep the treatment plants and wastewater pumping stations operating properly. The maintenance crews rely on the warehouse to provide them the spare parts, tools, and supplies necessary to perform corrective and preventative maintenance for the treatment plants and pumping stations. The maintenance staff includes an electrical and instrumentation maintenance crew that repairs and maintains the complex electrical and instrumentation systems. 

What Happens to Sludge?
Sludge is a byproduct removed during the treatment process. Once removed, sludge goes through a two-step digester process that ferments the organic part of the sludge into products like methane gas, carbon dioxide and water. Sludge is treated with a polymer that flocs the solids and releases the water. The water is removed using belt filter presses or centrifuges. The resulting “cake” is pumped to our Biosolids Drying Facility which is fueled by methane produced on-site and pelletizes the biosolids. These pellets are sold for use as a soil amendment, providing additional revenue for the department.

What You Can Do to Help Avoid Sewage Spills
Our wastewater collection and treatment system is designed to handle three things: used water, human body waste, and toilet paper. It is very important to keep all foreign materials, such as grease and other household debris from entering the system because they can cause blockages that lead to sewage spills.

  • Don’t pour grease, fats, and oils from cooking down the drain. Collect the grease in a container and dispose of it in the garbage. Your refrigerator is a good place to store the grease until disposal because its lower temperature will solidify the liquid.
  • Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket. Place a wastebasket in each bathroom for the disposal of trash, disposable diapers, and personal hygiene or contraceptive products.
  • Don’t use your food disposal as the catchall for kitchen waste. Food scraps should be moved to a compost pile or place them in the garbage. 

Meeting our area’s wastewater needs is a shared responsibility of the City of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Operations of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities are governed by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission, whose members are appointed by the Winston-Salem City Council and the Forsyth County Board of County Commissioners.

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