East Valley Water District (EVWD) celebrated on Monday, May 24, the topping off of the final building for its Sterling Natural Resource Center, a $150 million wastewater recycling plant that will provide the district a new water source of up to 10 million gallons per day when completed.

A topping off ceremony is a traditional celebration of the installation of the top and final beam of framed structure, signifying the beginning of the last stretch of completing construction. On Monday, EVWD staff and its project partners watched as a construction crew used a crane to install the top beam on the Sterling’s solids handling building, where the plant will accept deliveries of food waste to be used with the byproduct of its own sewage treatment processes to produce methane that will be used to produce electricity to power the plant.

EVWD began construction of the wastewater plant with a groundbreaking at the site at Sixth Street and Del Rosa Drive in October 2018 and expects to complete the plant by January and began treating wastewater in the first quarter of 2022. This will allow the district to collect, recycle and reuse its own wastewater rather then sending it to the city of San Bernardino as it does now.

More than 2.5 years into construction all the plant’s major structures are either complete or nearly complete, including the neighboring public resource center and emergency operations center on the west side of Del Rosa.

At Sterling, EVWD will use an odorless, noiseless biomembrane bioreactor process to threat sewage and produce clean recycled water, which will be poured into local percolation ponds to recharge groundwater stores. EVWD will receive water credits from San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District for its recycled water.

Sterling will also include a public resources center that will be used to support EVWD’s water resources career pathway created with San Bernardino City Unified School District and provide a park setting for public use.

EVWD Board Chairman David Smith said he and the board are proud of the Sterling plant and what it represents.

“Sterling will transform wastewater into drinking water, demonstrate how wastewater treatment facilities can be good neighbors, convert food waste into energy to power SNRC and contribute to the local grid, create an opportunity to mentor our local students in potential careers and create a new safe space where residents can have conversations, learn, grow and engage with one another,” Smith said.

Brian Cahill of Balfour Beatty, contracted by EVWD to design-build Sterling, congratulated the staff and crews for their cooperative efforts in the complex project and having no major injuries (just a few cuts and scrapes) on a project with many complex hazards.

Cahill also noted that EVWD choosing the design-build process, in which the design and construction processes are done together with overlapping timelines, helped the district get a head start on construction, which proved vital in continuing progress during the coronavirus pandemic. Had the design-build process not been utilized, EVWD would just now be completing the design process and beginning construction, Cahill said.

By getting the design-build head start, EVWD purchased materials earlier, avoided inflation-related cost increases and avoided many pandemic-related delays in purchasing and delivery of materials. The cost of PVC pipe alone has gone up 80 percent since construction began, Cahill added.

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