Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sewer Plant Expansion Could Start in Summer

Sewer Plant Expansion Could Start in Summer
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - A three-year, $45 million expansion to the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Plant could get under way as soon as this summer.

Without the expansion, Fairfield and Suisun City will have trouble pursuing their growth plans.

First, the sewer district board at upcoming meetings must approve the environmental study. This study looks at the effects of creating a bigger sewer plant and collection system.

Building new basins, clarifiers, sewers and an outflow pipe into Suisun Marsh could affect nesting birds and habitat for the rare California tiger salamander. Work could cause traffic delays. Steps can be taken to alleviate such things, the report by Environmental Science Associates said.

But there's one "significant and unavoidable" impact, the study said. A bigger plant will allow Fairfield and Suisun City to grow and that growth will cause various environmental effects.

The district board could at some point vote that the benefits of the sewer plant expansion outweigh this potential drawback. The city councils of Fairfield and Suisun City comprise the district board.

The sewer district plant is located south of central Fairfield on Chadbourne Road, on the edge of Suisun Marsh.

Larry Bahr of the sewer district doesn't see the plant expansion as spurring runaway growth and development. Rather, he sees it as making possible the growth already planned by Suisun City and Fairfield.

"The plant expansion is responding directly to the approved general plans of the two cities," Bahr said.

The plant during dry weather currently handles 14.5 million gallons a day, Bahr said. It has a capacity of 17.5 million gallons.

"We're pushing it," Bahr said.

Ideally, the proposed expansion will begin this summer, Bahr said. When the three-year project is finished, the district should be able to handle 23.7 million gallons daily.

Money for the expansion is to come from connection fees. That is the fee paid by new homes and businesses to connect to the sewer system.

The district has gotten some public responses to the environmental report for the planned expansion. Most involve how the district handles treated sewage sludge, a district staff report said.

Handling of treated sewage sludge - also called biosolids - has become more controversial in recent years. The district sends its treated sludge to Potrero Hills to help cover trash.

Among the expansion projects:

- Building new equipment at the district plant to handle more sewage.

- Putting in larger pumps at certain locations. For example, the Cement Hill pump station would be expanded and relocated.

- Building a new pipe to release treated water into Ledgewood Creek in Suisun Marsh. The plant already has a pipe releasing treated water into Boynton Slough in the marsh.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

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