EU funds help: EU subsidies significantly helped the water quality in Vrchlabí (VIDEO)
13. 11. 2020
The mountain town of Vrchlabí in the Hradec Králové Region was only a small step away from a problem. Thousands of people could have been left without drinking water. The water treatment plant in Herlíkovice, which is the main source for Vrchlabí, started to show significant technological defects. Fortunately, the treatment plant was modernised in time and thus the threat of an emergency in the production of drinking water was averted. The whole project was implemented mainly thanks to a significant subsidy from the European Union. And today, they literally have a luxurious drink in Vrchlabí.
The water treatment plant in Herlíkovice, a well-known ski resort, supplies drinking water to over 11,000 people in Vrchlabí and the surrounding villages. The water is managed by the Municipal Water Supply and Sewerage Vrchlabí (MěVaK), a contributory organization of the Town of Vrchlabí.
"Our company takes care of the complete water infrastructure in Vrchlabí. It consists of a water treatment plant and the entire distribution system, including a wastewater treatment plant. We extract water from sources, treat it and deliver it to the consumer. Next, we treat it in the wastewater treatment plant in Vrchlabí and return it to the Elbe River. The water travels from Herlíkovice to consumers in approximately 80 kilometres of underground pipelines,” Petra Vrabcová, Director of MěVaK, describes.
TREATMENT PLANT FROM 1968
The history of the water treatment plant in Herlíkovice dates back to 1968, when it was completed. It saw its first major improvement in technology only after 28 years, in 1996. "In particular, the control system and regulation of technological processes were upgraded," Petra Vrabcová describes.
Throughout the operation of the treatment plant, however, nothing fundamental changed in terms of production processes, and the water was treated in the same way since the 1960s. It is clear that the system gradually declined. "There were more and more defects in the management and control of the technology. This began to negatively affect the quality of the treated water," says Zdeněk Satur, head of the water treatment plant in Herlíkovice and the wastewater treatment plant in Vrchlabí, who has been working in the water treatment plant for three decades.
When the deteriorating quality of raw water taken from the Elbe was added to the technical problems, it was necessary to start modernization. The water from the Elbe makes up, on average, 80 percent of the source water, the rest comes from the underground springs Pod Strážným, Peklo, Kněžice and Žalý.
The modernization really came at the eleventh hour. There were several problems. In addition to the emergency condition of the technology, water workers were concerned about the above-limit content of aluminium in the treated water and also by the insufficient hygienic conditions provided for the drinking water. The radon content in the air of the treatment plant was also unsatisfactory and the quality of raw and treated water was not measured. Under the Operational Programme Environment, the European Union provided a subsidy exceeding 47 million Czech crowns for the modernization of the Herlíkovice water treatment plant that cost 74 million in total.
"The problems piled up and it was necessary to address everything comprehensively. The European subsidy was a good thing, everything could be done at once, without phasing the investments," the director praises the system of financing. "The whole course of the intensification was interesting but demanding, because we made the repairs during full operation of the water treatment. We had to ensure concurrence of works and it was a hectic year for all of us. My colleagues and I spent not only whole days but also nights in the treatment plant. Many thanks to everyone who was involved," recalls Petra Vrabcová who became the director in 2016 and immediately joined in the preparations for the intensification.
Herlíkovice water is a local pride. However, those in charge are already thinking ahead. The water treatment plant is equipped with a single-stage filtration coagulation which precipitates impurities into larger particles and these are then trapped on the filter. "However, it is possible that in the future we will have to introduce another stage of water purification or we will have to start hardening the water, because the drinking water in Vrchlabí is extremely soft. This will result from the development of the state of the environment and legislation," the plant manager Zdeněk Satur ponders on the future and Petra Vrabcová adds: "So far we are ten years ahead, but then it will be necessary to reassess the plant, seeing whether it is able to treat water in the required quality and in the required time."
TEN YEARS AHEAD
"It is interesting that all MěVaK operations, i.e. the treatment plant, wastewater treatment plant and distribution technology, can be visited by prior arrangement. People can find out how non-drinking water becomes drinking water, how water is transported to the taps of all of us and finally even what happens after you flush it down the toilet or drain it from the tub. We can arrange excursions for anyone, schools and kindergartens are very interested," the director invites for a visit.
Photo: Jiří Macek