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Fresh Air and Sewers

A monthly update by Michelle Blackwell, Chair, Richmond Chamber Government Relations Committee.

Wastewater Treatment Plant, Richmond, California. Photo by Michael Layefsky, via Flickr.

Wastewater Treatment Plant, Richmond, California. Photo by Michael Layefsky, via Flickr.

At the October 15th Government Relations Committee meeting, Chad Davisson from the City’s Wastewater Department and Sonam Sha-Paul from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) gave us an update on their programs, plans and projects.

Richmond’s wastewater plant was built in 1953 and is long overdue for major upgrades with a backlog of over $100 Million in Capital Improvement needs. That was not a typo and yes the City has been here before as Josh Genser is quick to point out. For a quick history lesson – about 10 years ago the plant was run by the City and it needed a lot of work so the City went to bid to get another operator. US Filter now Veolia won the bid. EBMUD participated in the bidding process, however the City determined that the US Filter proposal was the best option at that time.

Fast forward ten years and the regulations and therefore the needs keep growing. In 2012 Corolla Engineering did a study for the City to determine what options should be looked at to address Richmond’s wastewater needs most effectively. Their study identified four options. Rebuild the Richmond plant, send the sewage to EBMUD via a pipeline to Point Isabel, send all sewage to West County Wastewater District (WCWD) or send just the solids to WCWD for treatment, both of which would require them to expand their plant. In the 2012 study, EBMUD’s pipeline was the least expensive so the City contracted with EBMUD to study its feasibility. EBMUD completed the hydrological studies and it turned out that it wasn’t feasible, due to regulatory restrictions on the use of Pt. Isabel. EBMUD also looked at building a pipeline all the way to EBMUD’s plant in Oakland but it was also deemed too expensive. So here we are. At the September 24th City council meeting, Chad laid out the next steps and options for the City. Getting too wonky?? Stay with me cause this is going to get expensive!

The new options are rebuild the Richmond plant which is still very expensive or convert the Richmond plant to liquid only and send the rest to either EBMUD or WCWD, both of which are plausible and worthy of additional study. The Richmond plant needs electrical and facility upgrades to be in compliance with the regulatory requirements regardless of what option is selected. The City Council has directed Chad to look into these options. Chad is developing a capital improvement program over 10 years, conducting a rate study based on the options still on the table and developing a 10 year capital investment strategy that could include a series of smaller bonds. Now you may ask what about that $38 Million dollar bond Richmond agreed to in 2010? That money is dedicated to the pipes in the streets (called a collection system) and cannot be used for the plant.

Currently there is an open public review period for a new 5 million dollar tank for storm water storage. It closes November 7th. This tank does not change anything noted above. Additional information is available on the City’s website. You can also read more online at Richmond Confidential.

STA_logo_RGBNow to that Fresh Air! The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is best known for its Spare the Air days but there is so much more to it. The BAAQMD is responsible for regulating stationary emissions in 9 counties (5340 square miles) in the Bay Area Air Basin. The Air District was established in 1955 and was the first in the country. Its mission is to protect our health and it has a 22 member board made up of elected officials from throughout the 9 counties. There are 4 board members representing Contra Costa. The very first regulation was banning backyard trash burning in 1955. Today the district has approximately 70 inspectors who inspect, track, issue and renew permits for anything sitting still (refineries, manufacturing plants etc.) that emit particulate matter. They also provide grants to reduce emissions on mobile sources (cars, ships etc.). The district maintains 28 ambient air quality monitors throughout the Bay area. There are two nearby. One in Point Richmond and the other in San Pablo. You can check them out yourself here. What happens when an the Air District fines a company for emission violations? Where does the money go? While the State of California determines the amount a company is fined, the Air District can allocate monies for local programs. For settlement info sign up to receive notifications here. The Air District has evolved with the times and provides outreach in many languages. They host workshops and are seeking opportunities to talk to community groups about their programs.


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