Monday, July 30, 2007

Better Process For City Sewage At $100 Million

Better Process For City Sewage At $100 Million
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

Visitors check out the secondary treatment tanks Thursday at the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant in Elmira. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

Vacaville city officials, staff and other guests gathered Thursday in Elmira to commemorate a project worth about $100 million and nearly a decade in the making.

"This is a great event for us, as you might imagine," said Public Works Director Dale Pfeiffer as he welcomed the audience to Vacaville's renovated and expanded Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was officially dedicated Thursday.

Speaking in front of the plant's new Administration and Control building, Pfeiffer said the project increases the city's wastewater treatment capacity to 15 million gallons per day.

Mayor Len Augustine said the plant expansion is "the largest public works project in the city of Vacaville." Augustine also pointed out the plant's implications for economic development and vitality, as businesses take basic infrastructure into account when they consider locating or expanding in Vacaville.

"This is a really important step in our future," Augustine said. "The Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant is a great big deal."

Walsh Pacific Construction won the contract for the work in 2001, and the funding was provided by a state revolving fund loan, the State Water Resources Control Board, sewer development impact fees and sewer rate payers. According to City Manager David Van Kirk, "This was not an easy project."

"We had an existing plant that we had to continue to operate," Van Kirk said, adding, "Certainly, our work is not over."

The city manager praised the foresight that was involved in the planning and construction of the plant. He explained that it is designed to accommodate further upgrades, whether they are necessitated by the city's growth or the state requires the city to adopt more stringent treatment standards.

The plant's doors remained open after the dedication for an open house and walking and bus tours. The first stops on the walking tour took visitors to the control room, the plant's nerve center and the place where data is transmitted and monitored, and then to the water quality laboratory, where 24,000 tests were conducted on 9,700 samples in the past year.

The rest of the tour was a firsthand look at the physical and biological processes that occur before treated wastewater can be released into the environment. Other stops included the pumps that convey the raw sewage into the plant, and the aeration basins, where microorganisms play an important part in the process by breaking down and absorbing material in the water.

Visitors also saw and heard how biosolids are treated and dried and how they eventually are used as cover material in landfills or for agricultural purposes. Treated water that goes through the rest of the process is chlorinated, and then dechlorinated, before it is released through an outfall pipe.

According to Jim Waters, primary engineer with design firm West Yost and Associates, "The plant is performing even better than expected."

"We are relieved and very happy to see it all done," Waters said. "A lot of people put a lot of work into it, and I think the results are very good."

Before the new facility was built - immediately south of the existing plant - Pfeiffer said that plant underwent three or four expansions of its own. That plant is being tied into the new one, according to public works staff, and will be put back into service in the near future, allowing the whole operation to reach a 15-million gallon per day capacity.

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

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