Industrial Utility Efficiency

Black & Veatch: Ensuring Aeration Blowers Meet the Needs of Wastewater Treatment Plants

Julie Gass, P.E., is a Lead Mechanical Process Engineer at Black & Veatch and an industry veteran with extensive experience in mechanical equipment in wastewater treatment plants. She also served on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Committee responsible for ASME PTC 13, Wire-to-Air Performance Test Code for Blower Systems, which is the performance test code published in October 2019 for all blower technologies. Blower & Vacuum Best Practices Magazine interviewed Gass to gain her views on aeration blowers, PTC 13, and the firm’s rigorous specification process to ensure treatment plants get the blower best suited for their application.


Good morning. Please describe Black & Veatch.

Black & Veatch is a global employee-owned engineering, procurement, consulting and construction company headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas. I work in our Water building, located in Kansas City, Missouri, which is about 15 minutes from our headquarters building. Black & Veatch was founded over 100 years ago in 1915 and is ranked as one of the world’s largest wastewater construction and engineering firms. 

Black & Veatch’s design experience in the industry includes primary, secondary, and tertiary treatment; wet-weather flow treatment; effluent reuse; ozonation; ultraviolet disinfection; aerobic and anaerobic digestion; nutrient removal and recovery; and odor/air emissions control. We also have extensive experience in advanced process options, such as biological aerated filters, membrane bioreactors, moving bed biofilm reactors, and integrated fixed-film activated sludge. In addition, we excel in all aspects of biosolids management. 

We engage with clients on all different types of projects, whether it’s stand-alone jobs, or designing, installing, and commissioning new or upgraded treatment facilities.

Julie Gass, Lead Mechanical Process Engineer, Black & Veatch.


How would you assess blower manufacturers’ ability to the meet the needs of wastewater treatment plants today?

In my view, blower manufacturers have been very responsive to the needs of treatment plant owners. 

For example, gearless high-speed turbo blowers were one of the first technologies to offer better efficiency for small-to medium wastewater treatment plants when they first came out. Size classifications are rather arbitrary, but, in my mind, a small treatment plant is a facility that typically uses blowers that are each sized for 2,000 scfm or less. Medium-sized plants are operations with blowers from 2,000 to 10,000 scfm each. A larger plant is one with each blower sized for 10,000 scfm or more. The availability of gearless turbo blowers was significant because there weren’t too many choices for improved energy efficiency for these plants and they tended to rely on Positive Displacement (PD) or multistage centrifugal blowers. 

In terms of newer technologies - like the gearless high-speed turbo blowers with non-contact bearings - they’re not perfect, but nothing ever is. We all know there were some issues with the early generations of blowers of this type. However, I have to give credit to the manufacturers. They’ve all made improvements and continue to make improvements in one way or another to ensure reliability and make customers happy. Some are focusing on improving Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and some are focusing on other parts of the machine. I think everyone is more focused on energy efficiency than even 10 years ago because, of course, electricity keeps going up in price.

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