One year from its initiation of the design-build process for the Sterling Natural Resource Center water recycling plant, East Valley Water District (EVWD) Board of Directors reviewed the project’s considerable progress and adopted a few modifications during a July 24 meeting.

“We have had major progress in the permitting side, major progress in the funding aspect, construction is in a great place and design is moving forward,” said EVWD Director of Strategic Services Kelly Malloy, during a report on the project. “We have a great team working hard and diligently so this project is something that is truly a public resource, something they can be proud of.”

The project will construct a wastewater recycling plant capable of treating up to 10 million gallons per day. The plant will use a quiet, odorless membrane bioreactor process to treat the district’s sewage and recharge the Bunker Hill Basin by releasing the clean water into percolation ponds.

EVWD is building the center on parcels on both sides of Del Rosa Drive on the south side of Sixth Street. The treatment plant is being built on the east lot and a public resource center/emergency operations center will be built on the west side of Del Rosa.

It is expected to be completed late-2021 to early-2022.

Construction

EVWD entered a design-build contract with Balfour Beatty on July 25, 2018.

Since then, work crews have excavated 400,776 cubic yards of dirt, poured 1,279 cubic yards of concrete and laid 545,705 pounds of rebar.

According to Malloy, design of the treatment plant is about 60 percent complete while design of the public center is about 20 percent complete.

“We do this in order to work through design and construction in a collaborative way,” Malloy said of the design-build concept. “We don’t wait until design has reached 100 percent because we want to them [designers] to be able to have that [construction contractors’] input as part of the process.”

The plant’s aeration basin, headworks building, main electrical building and influent pump station designs have all reached a point of completion that they are ready for initiation of construction, Malloy said.

Funding and permitting

Malloy also reported that the $150 million project is fully funded through a $125.3 million low-interest state loan and Proposition 1 and Urban Greening grants totaling over $8 million in funding. An additional $18 million will come from San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

The Urban Greening grant of $1.49 million was the most recently awarded to the project, earlier this month. The grant is awarded to projects that support reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and provide economic, environmental and public health benefits.

The district is also nearing completion of its State Revolving Funds, expected to be complete in about a month, Malloy said.

EVWD is collaborating with 14 public agencies to acquire all the required approvals and permits for the project.

According to Malloy, the longest of these approval processes is expected to be completed in approximately 18 months. While some of the permits are required prior to construction, most of them are required before the plant goes operational, Malloy added.

Due to Sterling’s proximity to the San Bernardino International Airport, the district is workign with the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permits relating to the regulation of vertical structures built adjacent to airports and required mitigations to prevent wildlife (birds in particular) from moving into the community center’s park and ponds, for aircraft safety.

Design modifications

The coordination and flexibility of the design-build system was demonstrated in the modifications to the plant designs, formalized in the board’s approval of related EIR ammendments.

The modifications include secondary storage of tertiary-treated recycled water, modifications to the emergency operations center facility to support additional wastewater treatment operations, incorporation of a newly acquired 2-acre parcel of land and modifications to enable Sterling to accept and treat food waste.

These modifications did not create substantial new or increased impacts beyond those evaluated in the EIR approved for the project in 2016, and, therefore, did not require the full EIR process.

According to EVWD Director of Engineering and Operations Jeff Noelte, the treatment of food waste will increase the efficiency and benefits of the plant’s production of methane, for energy, during the sewage treatment process.

The new capabilities will help the plant reduce its demand for off-site energy.

The plant’s process of purifying the water leaves a solid byproduct referred to as sludge.

According to Noelte, the instability of this rotting sludge makes it undesirable for spreading onto farmland. So the plant will process it further to stabilize the sludge. The sludge produces methane during this process, methane that the plant will use to generate electricity.

“When things are breaking down and rotting you get methane-containing gas generation,” Noelte said. “Here, in a controlled environment in all-sealed tanks, we’re using processes to clean it up and make it easier to put into an engine or other device to convert it into energy.”

“If we can add [food waste] to the same process we can increase our energy generation,” Noelte said. “It’s a win-win. We have this waste stream where people are trying to find the cheapest way to get rid of it. They’re not allowed to put it down the drain because it’s too problematic for the sewers, but we can bring it into a wastewater treatment facility where we already have the technology and the digestion.

“We’re very confident at controlling and understanding that process and we can generate more electricity because more biogas is being generated. The amount of energy generation described in the 2016 EIR and the amount of energy available to us probably wasn’t very cost effective. By adding to that energy source we make it more beneficial to the operation and offset the energy of the plant and we expect there could be additional energy to export to the grid.”

The modifications will allow Sterling to accept up to 670,000 gallons of food waste per week and generate up to four bio-solids haul trucks per day, up from two trucks described in the 2016 EIR.

The waste will be delivered to Sterling by tanker trucks.

The food waste could come from partnerships between EVWD and local food producers (such as ice cream, dressing or yogurt makers) or waste collection companies.

The electric power would be produced by micro-turbines, fuel cells or generators powered by the resulting bio-gas. The heat generated by this process would be recovered and used in the digestion of the sludge.

The plant’s maximum capacity of treated water will remain unchanged at 10 million gallons per day.

The EIR amendments also included the addition of a 2-acre parcel of land to the treatment facility, using land purchased after the 2016 EIR was approved.

The lot will extend the facility’s easternmost border about 150 feet further east.

This additional space will be used to create a more efficient circulation of delivery trucks.

Sterling timeline

May 12, 2016: EVWD and San Bernardino Municipal Water District announce $2.65 million purchase of 14 acres of land for wastewater treatment facility.

May 2017: State Water Resources Control Board grants Sterling final water use permit needed to authorize recycled water to be recharged into the Bunker Hill Basin.

Nov. 21, 2017: The city of San Bernardino and its water department reach an agreement to resolve litigation over sewage treatment with San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and East Valley Water District.

July 25, 2018: East Valley Water District Board of Directors selected Balfour Beatty as the design-build contractor

Sept. 19, 2018: EVWD Board of Directors approves guaranteed maximum price of $147.5 million for Sterling Natural Resource Center, with the potential addition of co-generation digestion to generate electricity the project cost is estimated at $175 million..

Oct. 20, 2018: Community groundbreaking celebration held at Sterling site.

Dec. 10, 2018: Excavation begins including the influent pump station and aeration basin.

June 15, 2019: First concrete pour for the project.

June 2019: Urban Greening Grant finalized

July 25, 2019: First concrete wall is poured.

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