Providing his assessment of what to do about the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant, consulting engineer Webb Owen presented his findings at a special meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District Wednesday.
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Present for the meeting were Directors Bonnie McLane, Kathy Otermat and Maria Capraun. Directors Ray Griffiths and Norm Krizl were absent.
Owen concluded that the board should proceed with plans for the retrofit of the plant, although he offered the board some options for saving money on its final design.
In his report, Owen noted that the existing plant does not meet existing regulatory requirements for domestic water treatment plants and has been in violation of a compliance order issued by the California Department of Public Health for the last nine years.
“The district really doesn’t have a choice but to go ahead with the project,” he said.
Currently the ALT plant uses an in-line filtration treatment. The compliance order requires ALT to move to an approved multi-barrier filtration treatment process.
Some residents questioned why ALT could not be retrofitted the same way Walton Plant had been. Owen said that option was evaluated in a prior engineering report and was not found to be cost-effective. In addition, there was the problem of the age of the ALT facilities. “The result of all of these studies is that a two-stage process is the more prudent and cost-effective treatment process for the ALTWTP,” he concluded.
Owen recommended that GDPUD proceed with the project as proposed by previous engineers using a “Trident” two-stage system. He noted that, “the process is proven; the process is CDPH-approved; and this process will provide 30 percent more removal of total organic carbon.”
Since ALT has almost used up its useful life, Owen recommended against trying to modify the existing plant saying, “In my opinion, it would cost almost as much and possibly more to bring this facility into compliance. At the same time, the resulting facility would have a shorter planned useful life. The actual result would be to place a greater financial burden on the users than to build the proposed facility.”
Owen also advised against starting over, saying he didn’t think other solutions would reduce the construction costs and could result in even higher costs. He noted the district had already spent more than $400,000 on engineering studies and contract documents and that would be lost money if the district began again.
In response to a question regarding cost, Owen explained that the plant was more expensive than originally planned due to engineers not including certain elements such as “a raw water pump station, complete recycle water processing, solids drying, or the costs necessary to work on this site.” In addition, prices had gone up since work on the plans had begun.
Initially cost estimates in 2009 prepared by both Carlton Engineers and Peterson and Brustad Engineers put the price of the plant at $5.8 million. Psomas Engineering later arrived at three different estimates that ranged from $6.1 million to $9.8 million.
Since then the district has put the plans for the plant out to bid with the low bid coming in at $10.8 million.
Owen concluded by saying, “The bids received indicate that the low bid is competitive and the engineer’s estimate is simply not enough to represent this project’s cost. In order to effectively bring the cost down, some things will have to be revised or removed.”
Explaining that the ALT design is not a “Cadillac” plant, he nonetheless advised that some components could be postponed and possibly never built to help reduce the cost and not jeopardize the function. The report listed 17 items that could be revised or removed, shaving approximately $920,000 to $1.2 million off the total price of the project, although Owen acknowledged those were only estimates and had to be used with “extreme caution.”
Some of the most expensive items he recommended modifying or eliminating altogether included: a second chlorine contact tank; revisions to the chemical feed system; eliminating an extra standby generator; changing how solid waste is processed; and making changes to the electrical and instrumentation requirements.
Owen concluded his report by recommending modifying the design of the plant, but doing so only after consulting with Psomas as well as the low bidder on the plant. He also recommended against certain cost saving ideas, saying they could result in compromised service, higher costs, and rejection by CDPH.
With the ball now in GDPUD’s court, Interim General Manager Gary Hoffmann said he would meet with Operations Manager Kelly Shively and Psomas to get their perspective on why the 17 items identified by Owen had been added to the plant’s design. However, Hoffmann cautioned that, “Any changes to the design cost money. It’s whether making the change will benefit you in a lower cost that you’re not just eating up by paying the engineer to redesign.”
Hoffman also reminded the board it still has a decision to make regarding whether or not to award the bid and funding the plant remains an issue. GDPUD has until Dec. 20 if it wants to apply to CDPH for a loan, although they still have access to a Prop 50 grant as well as funding from the EPA. A loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is also an option.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.