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October 21, 2021

MSWD Board Approves More than $43 Million For New Sewage Treatment Plant

On Monday, October 18, the Mission Springs water District Board of Directors approved its largest ever single expenditure, $43,035,300, for the construction of a new sewage treatment plant on Little Morongo Road south of Dillon. I would have expected MSWD to have a press release set and ready to go as soon as the board voted, but I've seen no mention of it in the Desert Sun or other local media. So here we go.

Most of the discussion by the board on this subject took place at the Thursday, October 14, study session. If you want to follow along in the video of the meeting, the discussion starts at about 19:48. And here's a link to the agenda packet, if you want that.

The lowest bid came from J.F. Shea Construction, Inc. at $40,986,000. Add to that a 5% contingency ($2,049,300) to get the total of $43,035,300. The engineer's estimate from 2020 had put the cost around $34 million. "Based on discussions with several of the Bidders, the costs for various commodities including cement, pozzolan admixtures, PVC pipe, steel and ductile iron pipe were as much as twice the cost of 2019, before the pandemic in the US and globally." "The District is currently slated to receive at least $16,000,000.00 in grants toward the project through the State Water Board that will help alleviate the construction cost increase, and fund the reminder through a low interest loan." Bids from other companies were as high as $50,801,000.

This first phase of construction will build a 1.5 million gallon/day (MGD) sequence batch reactor (SBR) wastewater treatment plant.

The existing Horton Wastewater Treatment facility is at capacity. Daily flows there are averaging above 2 MGD while the plant has a legal capacity of 2.2 MGD. Expansion of capacity is required in order to (A) continue with the program of replacing septic tanks with sewers, and (B) be able to take parts of the Horton facility offline for required regular maintenance.

General Manager Arden Wallum said that the district is in the best financial situation possible right now to begin this large project. The project officially goes back to 2006 when it was included in the district's Wastewater Master Plan. Preliminary designs began in 2017. The sequence batch reactor process is a lower cost alternative and can be readily upgraded to membrane bio-reactor (MBR) technology in the future. MBR produces a higher quality effluent. The board approved the preliminary design in 2018.

Initially, the plant will be fed with 0.2 MGD (i.e., 200,000 gallons/day) diverted from the Horton plant. In the future, 0.32 MGD will be diverted from Horton, extending Horton's operating capacity by ten years.

During the staff report by Steve Ledbetter, he mentioned an ultimate capacity at the new plant of 20 MGD. I don't know if that was a slip of the tongue or a real figure. I don't see the number anywhere in the written report.

The 1.5 MGD SBR facility could be converted to a 3.0 MGD MBR facility without having to remove or replace any equipment. At the 1.5 MGD level, the plant will have a life of 10 to 15 years. That's baseed on the assumption that all the septic tanks are replaced with sewer connections.

There is a Dos Palmas lift station that currently sends sewage to Horton. Those flows will be rerouted to the new plant. Horton could send sewage to the Dos Palmas lift station, where they would then flow to the new plant. Alternatively, the district could build a new interceptor line elsewhere to bring flows to the new plant. A new line running from Two Bunch Palms Trail down Little Morongo could extend the life of the Horton plant 15 to 20 years before it needed any expansion.

The final funding agreement with the State Water Resources Control board is expected in November or December. Already approved are an $8 million grant from the Small Community Wastewater Grant Program and another $8 million from the Groundwater Grant Program. Under review is an additional grant of up to $33.1 million under SB 129. Beyond that, funding is available from the State Revolving Loan Fund at an interest rate of only 0.9%. Assessment District 15 would also supply $4,250,000.

Mr. Ledbetter presented the following chart. With total expenses listed on the left and total funding listed on the right, one would think that it is intended that we compare these two bars, but when you add up the figures you get something quite different.

Screen Shot 2021-10-21 at 16.13.54

The bar on the left lists these construction costs:

GQPP Area M-2 CM/Insp/Admin:$1,251,547
GQPP Area M-2 Construction:$10,429,554
Conveyance Line CM/Insp/Admin:$937,200
Conveyance Line Construction:$7,810,000
WVWRF Design/CM/Insp/Admin:$8,253,400
WVWRF Construction:$42,945,000

The bar on the right lists funding sources:

GW Grant:$8,000,000
SCW Grant:$8,000,000

Then he showed an alternate funding bar that includes an IA Grant of $33,100,000. Those figures are as follows:

IA Grant:$33,100,000
GW Grant:$8,000,000
SCW Grant:$8,000,000

In both cases the total funding comes to $68,526,701, but the total expenses are $71,626,701; a shortfall of $3,100,000. I don't suppose this was intended as a demonstration that MSWD staff can't add or that they forgot the need to pay for $3,100,000. Maybe they never intended the two bars, presented next to each other on the same page, to be compared, although it is quite common to compare costs and funding this way.

Staff analysis in the last year shows the district has over $60 million in debt capacity, so borrowing the full amount of $42,945,000 would be doable.

The new plant would be operational within 18 months after J.F. Shea is given notice to proceed. The date construction will start will be controlled by the district. There are at least a couple months worth of work to be done before ground could be broken.

The actual vote to award the job to J.F. Shea took place at the Monday, October 18, meeting. Here's the YouTube video if you want to see that.

Director Grasha moved for approval. Seconded by Vice President Martin. Approved 5-0.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | October 21, 2021 at 05:23 PM


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