Wastewater treatment plant scheduled for $10M makeover 

Facility has old equipment, but upgrades will transform it into high-tech green operation

BURLINGAME — The city will unveil $10 million worth of wastewater treatment plant upgrades today, improvements officials say will make the facility run like a more efficient, more environmentally friendly machine.

The project, funded with a low-interest state loan, includes electrical upgrades, a new "de-watering" station and technology that will allow plant operators to monitor its operations via computer, plant manager Bill Toci said.

Toci is one of about 14 employees who work for Veolia Water North America, a company under contract with the city since 1972 to operate the plant on Airport Boulevard. The company was a major player in designing the major improvements, which replace structures and machinery that are up to 50 years old.

The plant treats approximately 4 million gallons of sewage daily, but that figure balloons up to nearly 25 million on rainy days, when storm water backs up into the city’s sewage system, Public Works Director George Bagdon said. These backups were one of the key points raised by supporters of Measure H, a storm water system upgrades bond issue on this month’s ballot.

"We’re not supposed to even be treating storm water at this plant," Bagdon said.

State officials can impose fines upon local governments for such backups, but Bagdon said Burlingame has not had that problem in recent years.

Now that these improvements are complete, the city is setting its sights on further capital improvements, like solar paneling, to make the plant even more energy efficient. Solar paneling and the newly upgraded, $10 million co-generation system would generate at least 80 percent of the plant’s electricity, Bagdon said.

A catch basin to hold excess storm water runoff — to make sure it doesn’t clog operations in the plant — is another possibility in the next five years.

Burlingame spends $5.7 million annually to operate the plant.

The cogeneration upgrades are similar to those implemented in Millbrae, which is also wrapping up work completed on its own wastewater treatment plant. The plant’s new cogeneration system will create and use the methane biofuel — gas produced from restaurant grease — expected to increase the amount of green power generated there by approximately 40 percent, according to Millbrae Public Works Director Ron Popp.

tramroop@examiner.com

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