The American Council of Engineering Companies of Texas announced its annual Engineering Excellence Awards this past month with Parkhill, Smith & Cooper taking home the Gold Medal in Water and Wastewater for PSC’s design of the Wheeler Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant in Wheeler, Texas.

“What a privilege it has been to serve the community of Wheeler, Texas for more than 20 continuous years,” said Scott Honeyfield, Principal, and PSC Infrastructure Team Leader. “Challenged with engineering an exceptional water quality issue, the community and PSC came together with a unique solution. Returning Wheeler’s water quality back to its once pristine condition. Winning the ACEC-Texas gold medal for Engineering Excellence was a pleasant surprise for both of us. Further reinforcing how a community and their engineer can achieve great things when challenged with a difficult issue.”

The Engineering Excellence Awards has been held by ACEC of Texas since its inception in 1975 to honor and recognize outstanding achievements within the engineering community. The awards will be handed out at the annual banquet on March 26 in Houston.

The distinguished panel of judges from around the state selected 11 Gold Medal and 7 Silver Medal winning projects from 23 entries based on uniqueness, originality, technical, value to the engineering profession, complexity and how successfully the project met the needs of the client.

“We are extremely honored that our Wheeler RO project was considered for this prestigious ACEC award,” said Brian Stephens, Principal and Environmental Director at PSC. “We have enjoyed a great relationship with the city of Wheeler for many years and are thankful that they entrusted PSC to come up with an innovative and comprehensive solution for its drinking water.”

The Wheeler Plant uses a reverse osmosis technique that is innovative and unique to the Texas Panhandle. With the help of a membrane, the water treatment plant is able to use their available groundwater resources and pumps 1 million gallons per day (MGD).

Wheeler had historic problems with high nitrate issues in the groundwater. PSC was originally contacted to provide alternatives to the existing groundwater for the city’s potable supply. After evaluation of alternatives, the city selected treatment of the existing groundwater instead of alternate sources. The city was advised to pursue reverse osmosis treatment as it provided treatment for other possible constituents of concern in addition to nitrate.

Pilot studies for reverse osmosis systems were required by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) at the time of the project’s inception. PSC coordinated the pilot study complete with protocols, manufacturer coordination, testing coordination and final pilot reporting to TCEQ. The results of the pilot study identified that reverse osmosis rejected over 96 percent of the nitrate present in the groundwater and proved to be an effective treatment alternative.

PSC coordinated blend ratios and post-treatment to ensure a smooth transition to reverse osmosis water and worked diligently with the city to get all warranties, documentation, and training performed prior to the closeout of the contract.

“The use of reverse osmosis as a technology is unique for this geographical region,” said Daniel Albus, Associate and Civil Engineer at PSC on the Wheeler project. “Wheeler and PSC selected the innovative technology to ensure consistent quality to the citizens of Wheeler for many years to come.”