While most people know the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) will be spending more than $3.6 billion in the next two decades in multiple communities in and around Pittsburgh to comply with federal clean water mandates, they tend to forget that, in addition, ALCOSAN will be spending millions more to triple its treatment plant’s capacity to handle the greater flow that work will generate.
Cosmos Technologies President Frederick Douglas didn’t forget. His company recently won the contract to design a new filtration system that will operate throughout the plant’s expansion—and he’s the prime contractor.
“I am very happy and thankful to be the prime contractor on this project,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier in a Jan. 28 interview. “Several others, including some large companies, bid on this, but we won. I think our experience with these kinds of mechanical systems, and our process-engineering work, allowed us to anticipate and account for challenges in the system.”
The system Douglas and his team are designing is a temporary hypochlorite filter and is the final filter in the series of pipes, holding and settling tanks, and chemical treatments and filters the plant subjects waste water to before it is discharged.
“It’s called temporary because it will only operate for the four years it takes to complete the plant expansion,” he said. “By the end the plant will go from treating about 100 million gallons a day to 250 million gallons—and our system will handle that.”
Douglas started Cosmos at his kitchen table in 1998, with no employees and no contracts. He now has 19 full-time employees—with offices in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Akron, and Cleveland—and his proprietary system for treating fracking waste water is patented in the U.S., Canada, Austria, and Chile.
But Cosmos is still a small Black-owned business, and if not for an early contract he received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Douglas said, there would be no Cosmos at all. That’s why he praises ALCOSAN and its leadership.
“ALCOSAN has shown an ongoing commitment to small and diverse businesses and its management should be credited with giving small businesses a shot,” he said. “To have that commitment to working with and pushing small businesses to have opportunities to grow is critical to the growth of the region.”
Some of the technical considerations in the system Cosmos is designing—the team is about two months into a seven-month design process—are the size and number of components such as pumps, pipes, but also the materials they are made of because the hypochlorite disinfectant is quite caustic and doesn’t play well with metals, Douglas said.
“And it has to run while other systems are taken off line, and replaced or relocated during the expansion,” he said. “And at the end of four years, it will be replaced by a larger system—of course I will bid for the design work on that as well.”
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