Richmond Utilities expected EnerSys to comply with the new, higher standard for reducing the lead from the waste water it discharges into the city’s sewage system.

The industry, which employs 377 workers and has manufactured lead-acid batteries in Richmond since 1976, did more than comply.

The new standard permits industries to discharge no more than 0.204 milligrams per liter of waste water, said Larry Grubbs, Richmond’s waste water pretreatment coordinator.

The system that Enersys installed last year filters out all but 0.03 milligrams of lead per liter on a “very consistent basis,” he said.

“That’s about one-tenth of the amount permitted,” said Dennis Brumbaugh, manager of the Richmond EnerSys plant.

The system also cuts discharge of sulfates by a similar amount, he said.

The city utility was so pleased with the result that it nominated Enersys for the Pretreatment Excellence Award given by the Kentucky-Tennessee Professional Waste Water Managers’ Association. Grubbs recently accepted the award at the association’s annual conference in Knoxville, Tenn., and the utilities board presented it to EnerSys on Wednesday during its monthly meeting.

The filtration system represents about a $1.25 million investment by EnerSys, said Brumbaugh.

EnerSys configured its own computerized system to monitor and manage the filtration system, said Jim Pikul, the environment, health and safety manager for the EnerSys plant.

A technician attends to the apparatus during each of the plant’s two manufacturing shifts and on the weekend.

Ronnie Mitchell, a 31-year employee, runs the system on first shift.

James Isaacs, a 19-year employee, runs it on second shift, and Reubin Bailey, a 24-year employee, attends it on weekends.

“With all their experience, these guys really know what they’re doing,” Brumbaugh said.

In addition to keeping lead out of Richmond’s waste water, the filtration system retrieves the heavy metal, which is sent to a smelter to be recycled.

Recycling has become more important in recent months, as lead prices, along with other metals and commodities, have climbed sharply.

“This system is going to be good for both the economy and environment of Madison County,” Brumbaugh said.

The Richmond plant manufactures large storage batteries for industrial vehicles, the plant manager said. They power lift trucks used in warehouses and vehicles used in underground mines.

The EnerSys plant is Richmond’s largest industrial employer and the third largest in Madison County.

Eddie Frazier, the first person hired by the plant, then owned by Exide, is still on the job, Brumbaugh said.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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