Aviation

With new pipeline, Spirit increases use of recycled water

Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile, center, speaks Monday about the company’s completion of a $4 million project to increase its use of recycled wastewater from the city for the manufacture of aircraft parts, including the Boeing 787 forward fuselage towering behind Gentile.
Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile, center, speaks Monday about the company’s completion of a $4 million project to increase its use of recycled wastewater from the city for the manufacture of aircraft parts, including the Boeing 787 forward fuselage towering behind Gentile. The Wichita Eagle

Spirit AeroSystems has completed a $4 million project to increase its use of recycled water.

The aircraft supplier on South Oliver – and the city’s largest employer – on Monday marked the project’s completion in a small ceremony attended by about two dozen company and city of Wichita officials.

The project, announced last December, involved construction of a 3-mile-long pipeline from the company’s plant to the city’s Lower Arkansas Water Reclamation Facility near 55th and Hydraulic as well as expansion of Spirit’s internal reverse osmosis system. Wastewater treated at the facility that can’t be re-used is discharged into the Arkansas River.

But now Spirit can use it.

The system will allow Spirit to purchase and acquire up to 500 million gallons of recycled water from the city annually. It uses water for the manufacture of large aircraft structures, including for its autoclaves that harden the carbon-fiber shells of the Boeing 787 forward fuselage sections it makes.

Spirit president and CEO Tom Gentile said that in the manufacturing of one Boeing 737, the company uses about 900,000 gallons of water to manufacture the fuselage and other parts. Spirit is currently producing 42 737 planes a month. Examples of its use of water in the manufacture of the 737 include water for machining parts, lubricating and cooling them. Water also is used for testing of the parts and aircraft structures Spirit manufactures, a process called nondestructive testing.

“Water is incredibly important to our production process,” Gentile said at the event.

He said the company has been recycling water since 1998 and this year is averaging 2 million gallons of recycled water a day. The new pipeline and expanded system that Spirit paid for will allow it to use 1 million more gallons daily.

“This partnership with the city of Wichita is all about reclaiming even more water instead of the city discharging its non-usable water after filtration into the river,” Gentile said.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said at the event that the project “helps to secure the city’s long-term water supply, all at no cost to Wichita ratepayers.”

“It really does change the dynamic on what we’re trying to conserve, which means we’ll have water that people can drink for a long time,” he said.

The city also stands to make money on the treated wastewater. Spirit will pay the city 50 cents for each 1,000 gallons of wastewater.

“Spirit has agreed to buy a product that we were throwing away in the river,” Longwell said.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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