Monday morning, Mayor Marge Colapietro cut the ribbon on the completion of the largest project that the city of Millbrae has ever taken on. The much anticipated wastewater treatment plant upgrade, 10 years of planning in the works, is officially finished.
The upgrade included a new operations center completed last year, a 1.2 million gallon underground tank and updated technology and equipment.
For the project, Millbrae received $28.6 million in financial assistance from the California Water Resources Control Board, backed by federal stimulus funds. This assistance enabled 20-year borrowing at a low interest rate of one percent which is expected to save the City $10 million over the 20 year term.
"A lot of us have gotten a lot of heat for supporting the stimulus act," said Congresswoman Jackie Speier at Monday's event at the treatment plant. She said that the completion of this project is a positive example of American Recovery Act funds well spent. "This operations center will now withstand an earthquake. Imagine all the residents of Millbrae in porta-potties. Not a pretty sight," she said.
The most difficult element to the project was to keep the plant running while conducting renovation. The 1.2 million gallon overflow tank can now be used while part of the plant goes offline for future repairs.
State Sentor Leland Yee spoke, as did representatives of the offices of Assemblyman Jerry Hill and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Members of the Millbrae City Council were also in attendance.
Before the renovation, "many of the parts were breaking down," Colapietro said. "They were so old, in fact, that many of the companies that made them were out of business." Also, water quality regulations and fines on sewage overflows have both increased since the plant was built in 1952.
With the upgraded technology, problems at the plant can be detected remotely from a laptop computer. The new over-flow tank will sustain a "25-year-storm," or a storm large enough to be expected every 25 years.
"We were hoping for more," said one plant employee at the event on Monday. A tank for a 50- or 100-year storm would have been great, he said.
"But it's kind of already proven itself," said senior operator at the plant, Julio Mejia. "It has increased our capacity during heavy rains."
Mejia said that during some heavy rains in the past, the city would have to find other ways to handle excess water, such as welding down manholes in the city.
Colapietro said that the renovated plant should last the city 50-100 years before another large-scale upgrade is needed.