Compared to the options of upgrading the existing plant, or replacing it with a Membrane Bioreactor Plant (MBR), a new pump station was clearly the best choice.
A side-by-side comparison found a new pump station would have the lowest operating cost, minimal odors, and allow water reuse within a year.
“The upgrade pushes the envelope to create more supplies for water,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said. “Option three is the most obvious for us.”
Other pluses are that existing pipelines can be used, and customers’ rates will increase the same, or less than, other options. The new pump station also has a smaller footprint than the present plant, and will allow for several acres of land reuse.
The city has been considering options for the aging wastewater treatment plant for over a year. At first a wide net was cast and nine possible solutions were looked at, before the final selection was narrowed to three.
Jason Dafforn, water utilities division manager and newly appointed interim director, said each option was viable, and had its highlights.
Upgrading the existing plant would cost significantly less than building a new plant, and could be completed in a couple of months.
The drawback is that it would not facilitate water reuse.
A MBP would allow water reuse, and could operate using the existing pipelines.
However, it had the highest price tag of $67.7 million, which would increase customers’ rates by 45 percent over 15 years.
The new pump station will cost $31.8 million to build, and increase users’ rates by 36 percent over 15 years, at a three percent increase a year.
Sanchez gave the option kudos for coming in at the best price, and providing the most benefits.
During the city’s year plus process of considering its options the two frontrunners were the new pump station and MBR, which would both provide capacity for water reuse for irrigation.
The Pacific Environmental Resources Corporation (PERC), proposed to build and operate the MBR, and shared information on its benefits with the Utilities Commission and City Council.
The concept was explored as an option that would go through a RFP process to hire a builder.
Utility Commissioners reported being pressured by PERC employees with calls, invitations to lunch, and promises of a ride aboard the company yacht.
Dafforn said regardless of the City Council’s decision, PERC would need to bid for the city contract along with other companies, and would not operate the plant.
The final decision was to go ahead with the new pump station. The process to design, put out a call for bids, and secure permits for the pump station will take approximately two years. Then building will begin.\