SAN LUIS OBISPO — The City of San Luis Obispo’s wastewater treatment plant is getting a makeover. The City unveiled plans for major improvements and a new name for its wastewater treatment plant, now called the Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF).
On Thursday (Jan. 30), the city invited special guests to VIP tours of the WRRF to reveal major upgrades and planned transformations that will save energy at the plant, help the environment and control costs.
“We’re leading the way in California to pursue the first public-private partnership of this kind with PG&E that will help improve energy efficiency at a major municipal facility,” said Utilities Director Carrie Mattingly. “Our facility is over 50 years old and some of the equipment dates back to the ‘60s. In an effort to control costs and help further the city’s goal to be effective stewards of natural and fiscal resources now and into the future, we’re moving forward to modernize the Water Resource Recovery Facility.”
Managed by the City of San Luis Obispo Utilities Department, the WRRF’s major improvements will include equipment upgrades and a full modernization of the facility. As part of its energy efficiency initiative called Progressive Resource & Energy Partnership (PREP), the Utilities Department has connected with PG&E in the state’s first ever partnership of this kind to help make the facility more energy efficient.
Through the partnership, PG&E is assisting the City in the development, design and implementation of more energy efficient equipment. This includes upgraded control systems and a new Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system that allows for the generation of on-site electricity for the facility using the natural bio-gas produced each day. Combined, these improvements will enhance the operation of the facility and reduce its dependence on the electric grid.
“PG&E welcomes the opportunity to support the City of San Luis Obispo in achieving its energy efficiency, financial and sustainability goals,” said Pat Mullen, customer service director for the utility. “Through this innovative partnership, the City will save money, decrease its energy use and reduce its carbon footprint. The result is real economic and environmental benefits for this community and our customers who reside in the area.”
The improvements to the plant will help the environment by reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses that are released into the atmosphere. The upgrades will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one million pounds annually. That’s the equivalent of planting 378 acres of forest, taking 96 cars off the road or powering 69 homes.
In May 2013, the San Luis Obispo City Council approved the recommended financing strategy for this project at a total cost of approximately $9.5 million, paving the way to start the construction early this year. When the project is completed and the upgrades are made, it is projected that the City could save up to $8 million over 25 years.
The plant’s annual operating budget is $3.2 million, which includes significant energy costs, which will be reduced as a result of the upgrades. The facility currently employs eight operators, four maintenance technicians, and one plant supervisor.
The City of San Luis Obispo’s Water Resource Recovery Facility is responsible for treating over 1.7 billion gallons of wastewater each year from within the city limits, Cal Poly and the county airport. The facility treats wastewater 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.