The Coast News Group

Escondido facility to undergo major upgrades

ESCONDIDO — One of the city’s most important facilities will undergo a major facelift.

The City Council recently approved a multi-million dollar project to upgrade the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility.

Chris McKinney, director of utilities, outlined the proposal for the $12 million project.

Upgrades include reconstruction of the primary basin and installation of aluminum covers plus new scum and sludge collection systems. Also, crews will replace the odor control system and ducting, while modifying and demolishing portions of the operations administration complex (OAC), build a new electrical room, relocate fiber optics to the new OAC and remove the roof and walls of the primary treatment building.

The plant’s input is an average of 10 million gallons of wastewater and residual storm water per day from Escondido and Rancho Bernardo. It is the city’s only wastewater facility, which operates 24 hours per day, so the upgrades must be completed in phases to avoid a complete shutdown, McKinney said.

Removal of the primary treatment building will improve working and safety conditions, as well as decrease the volume of foul air being treated.

The city received six bids with the condition that each firm must have completed at least one similar project in an active wastewater plant. The two lowest bids came from firms who failed to qualify. The contract was awarded to J.F. Shea Construction of Walnut at $10,927,580.

Due to the complexity of the project, the City Council also approved the hiring of three consulting firms for a total of $1,084,006. The consultants will oversee construction management, engineering and electrical inspection services.

Wastewater enters the plant and is pumped into the primary treatment building. From there, an iron-based chemical is applied to coagulate dissolved solids and pulled to the basin.

“That is basically sludge,” McKinney said. “It can be gathered and treated and the water can move on to the second treatment steps.”

The sludge also creates odor, which must be treated before being released into the atmosphere. Due to the age of the facility, which is 50 years old, advances and changes in technology are driving the upgrades.

In addition, the odor-collecting systems are inefficient and use a large amount of energy to process the odors. Because of the size of the area, a much larger amount of air must be treated, McKinney explained.

Another concern with the primary building, which is too large by today’s standards, is it is becoming more corrosive, a by-product of the odors. Although the structure is still sound, McKinney said in the next several years to a decade, it may start to “suffer” and could even become uninhabitable.

“Those are the big drivers behind this project,” he added.

Finally, McKinney said the updated equipment to be installed will reduce the footprint of the primary and odor-control system in the plant.

“As we need to expand our recycled water treatment, we need space for those additional treatment processes,” he said. “This newer, more efficient process design will open up space at the facility so we can increase our recycled water.”