By Traci Chapman
Mustang’s Water Reclamation Facility established firsts for municipalities and provided an opportunity for the city to reuse water in a way unique among Oklahoma communities; now it also has another distinction – it’s an award-winning facility.
Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Nov. 20 awarded the reclamation plant its 2020 Environmental Excellence Award for Government Programs of a Municipality serving a population of less than 25,000 people. It was an honor that came about as a result of the innovation and work displayed by a team comprised of assistant city manager Justin Battles, Inframark’s Dennis Merrill and Michael Taylor and his staff at Cowan Engineering Group, Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney said Monday.
“There were many people involved with making the reuse component of the Water Reclamation Facility become a reality – the least of which is me,” he said. “I am very proud of the work accomplished by Mr. Battles, our Assistant City Manager, Mr. Dennis Merrill with Inframark and Michael Taylor and the team at Cowan Group – it’s nice to see their efforts recognized by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful during what has been a challenging year to say the least.”
The Water Reclamation Facility moniker was an official sign of some significant changes to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which reopened in September 2019. Those changes were made possible by voters who agreed to an August 2016 sales tax extension, one of several projects undertaken by the city after that vote.
Early on, city officials knew the project was a milestone among Oklahoma municipalities.
“The city of Mustang has been proactive in its approach to the Governor’s Water for 2060 legislation and as part of that awarded the contract that includes wastewater treatment plant improvements that included reuse to offset the use of drinking water for city irrigation,” lead operator Kevin Cahoon said after a ceremony officially marking the facility’s expansion reopening.
“Mustang was the first Oklahoma City that DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) permitted for Category 2 water reuse.”
That milestone was part of a plan that also effectively expanded Mustang’s wastewater treatment capacity to three million gallons a day, said Justin Battles, assistant city manager. With the city dependent on purchasing water from Oklahoma City, expanding its own facilities – particularly adding the ability to reuse water for things like ballfield and soccer field irrigation, watering parks and the like was a big achievement for the city – and could mean cost savings of millions of dollars over an extended period of time.
“This also lessens the annual water burden and cost to the taxpayers on the largest user of water in Mustang – that being the City of Mustang,” City Manager Tim Rooney said last year.
The $6 million project meant up to 30 million gallons of reuse water could be used for irrigation purposes; a reuse water filling station could mean revenue to the city when it officially comes online, as parties could purchase that water for their own similar purposes, Cahoon said.
“This is a win-win-win for everyone, and it’s a great achievement for the city,” he said.
“Although this isn’t one of those exciting projects that really get a lot of attention it’s among the most important we’ve done,” Battles said during the September 2019 reopening ceremony. “Water is our most precious resource and will continue to pose challenges for everyone and I am particularly proud of the steps we’ve taken with these upgrades to meet those challenges.”
Mustang was advised of the nomination in an Aug. 28 letter from KOB program coordinator Anthony Wilson, directed to Justin Battles, assistant city manager. The nonprofit organization recognizes more than 35 individuals, communities, state agencies and other entities annually in the areas of education, conservation, nonprofit efforts, litter prevention, sustainability practices, beautification, volunteer community groups, law enforcement and youth leadership, among others, officials there said.
Keep Oklahoma Beautiful is part of larger national Great American Cleanup and America Recycles efforts, as well as promoting recycling statewide and beautification efforts like Fresh Paint Days. KOB also conducts workshops and provides educational outreach and grants.