Crawford, Murphy & Tilly: Water treatment. First class

Crawford, Murphy & Tilly: Water treatment. First class

At the very core of Crawford, Murphy & Tilly (CMT), lies a promise to provide superior professional engineering services that are responsive to client’s needs and expectations, all the while providing a working environment that fosters the growth and development of its employees.

As an engineering, planning and design company, driven to build and manage infrastructure to enrich a community, having that responsive and flexible approach to clients is key, particularly when that infrastructure project is the expansion of a major water treatment facility that’s been in operation since 1970.

“We’ve always been a firm that puts the client first. We listen, we evaluate the need and the skill that’s required, and then we provide a design around that, one that will provide long-term value,” says Christina Crites, Senior Engineer and Project Manager, CMT.

Crites currently heads up a water resources team at the company’s current project, expanding the Sugar Creek Wastewater Plant, Springfield, Illinois. The project? To design, plan and construct a major expansion at the plant that will see the plant’s current rating of 10mn gallons per day (MGD)and a peak flow of 25MGD increase to 15MGD with a peak flow of 37.5MGD.

This is no small feat, given the fact that the plant has received no major upgrades in over 30 years and the main client is the Springfield state itself.

Crites has a strong background in mechanical engineering and environmental studies and actually cut her teeth with CMT, working at a CMT-designed plant prior to coming into the businesses and being the lead engineer herself.

This gives Crites a unique understanding - she has been on the other side of the fence as an operator, and she knows what makes the ideal partner and contractor.

“The Sugar Creek project contains very open SCADA infrastructure for the treatment process, which makes it very operator friendly,” she says. “The operators can adjust it, do what they need to do with relative ease. This is essential in creating a strong relationship with the operations staff because they can see it, assess it and modify the infrastructure to fit their needs at any time.”

This helps foster relationships centred around collaboration and allows CMT to operate as an extension of the client. Crites looks to create a value conscious team, one that spends money as though it were clients’ money throughout the entire design, planning, construction and operation.

“It’s about making sure that we deliver the end results that we promise, but more importantly, the end results that the clients need. We work to meet those expectations and we work harder to exceed them,” she says.

Sugar Creek will be the second wastewater treatment plant that CMT has worked on in Springfield, having previously completed an earlier, much larger wastewater treatment project at Spring Creek.

This allows Crites and CMT to bring valuable experience that will create a much more efficient and effective process at Sugar Creek and it starts with having the right people in place.

“It’s funny actually,” notes Crites. “Sugar Creek has been a lot easier because, being a biological nutrient removal plant, there was a lot of continuity, particularly in staff.”

This continuity in staff was enabled through an initiative at the previous project that saw CMT partner younger, ambitious up and coming engineers with more senior staff, fostering a workplace that enabled these staff to achieve and to understand the processes involved in plant construction and operation.

“When Sugar Creek came around, our staff were in the ideal position to lead the way. It was all around providing the right environment and providing opportunities, giving them the guidance they need to get to the point where they become their own leaders,” says Crites.

“The whole process has been a tremendous opportunity for a whole future generation of CMT staff, seeing through the whole process of planning, design and construction of a major project – one that was actually twice the size of Sugar Creek.”

CMT works closely with the State of Illinois on the delivery of the Sugar Creek plant expansion as well as maintaining a strong relationship with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). The relationship with the IEPA has proved crucial, as CMT worked to obtain a re-rating of the plant’s permitted capacity.

But for Crites, that relationship extends beyond simple certifications and approvals.

“Sure, we work very closely in order to ensure that things are permitted and signed off correctly, but it has been much more than that,” she says. “From a regulatory perspective, there are going to be a number of environmental changes on the horizon, so having that relationship there will help give us flexibility in our future projects.”

With construction now complete and CMT targeting a late 2017 operation date, the company will not simply put down its tools and wash its hands of the project. CMT provides added value, assisting with the start-up, ensuring that the plant will operate to the specifications and expectations as promised from day one of design.

There’s just one complication; with any water treatment facility one must account for extreme weather events, but the only issue is that a designer can never fully prepare for one.

“You can’t test storm mode until an actual storm happens,” says Crites. “There’s always going to be changes and tweaks that will happen, but even then, you’re just waiting for the next storm or extreme event to occur. You cannot simply walk away from a plant like this.”

With Sugar Creek operational, Crites turns her attention ever so slightly to the future and what lessons can be taken away from this project. 

“Sugar Creek is a stepping stone really,” says Crites. “We really cut our teeth on this project in the nutrient removal process, something that’s going to become more and more prominent in future plants of this nature, so this type of work will only continue.

“The more we know and learn from Sugar Creek, the more we can understand what our clients want. Everything we’ve learned from Spring Water and Sugar Creek will guide us into the future.”