Santa Paula Times

Wastewater treatment plant: Noram Engineering to meet with City Council

January 10, 2007
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council will meet with a wastewater treatment plant builder at a special February 13 meeting as the state imposed deadline looms for the city to upgrade its technology.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe City Council will meet with a wastewater treatment plant builder at a special February 13 meeting as the state imposed deadline looms for the city to upgrade its technology. The meeting with Noram Engineering was set after a long discussion on the issue at the January 2 Council meeting.At the meeting, Mayor Ray Luna questioned whether the city should pursue trying to meet with Noram.“My question is, who are we talking to” in trying to set the meeting, asked Councilman Bob Gonzales.City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that, up until then, trying to schedule a meeting had been difficult, but that the president of Canada-based Noram indicated that he is “not comfortable having the rep from Mill Valley,” and prefers to bring his own Noram team.Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre reminded the Council of the timeline the city has to resolve the issue. “We talked about it at the last meeting, and that window is getting tighter and tighter.”The schedule is becoming critical, said Public Works Director/City Engineer Cliff Finley. “If we proceed with the MBR technology and get started immediately,” the project would not be completed until October 2009 or even early in 2010. “We’ve already pushed ourselves in time to the drop dead date,” and if the city switched to Noram’s Vertreat technology the timeline for completion could be extended by one year.Luna emphasized the stringent wastewater treatment guidelines of California and noted that, “Anything we do would just be a delay and the regional water quality control board” could see a switch in technology as a delay tactic. Luna suggested that the Council move forward with the current project and “get this thing built.”Councilman Bob Gonzales urged that the Council wait: “I too would like to see the wastewater treatment plant built yesterday, but I understand through a community member” that the Value Engineering report evaluating the project overstated the costs of Vertreat, “$25 million versus a lot more.” The current project could cost the city $180 million over the life of the 40-year loan, and Gonzales said that, although facing a deadline, “I don’t like to be put in a corner when spending people’s money.”Luna noted that the Council is the steward of citizens and the city.
“I have a lot of concerns here,” said Councilman Ralph Fernandez, who questioned why the representative from Mill Valley would be excluded from the meeting and suggested meeting with him in the interim until a session with Noram could be finalized.“What concerns me” is that Vertreat is utilized by only one United States city, said Luna.“These are the questions I would like to ask the gentleman from Mill Valley,” said Fernandez. “Right now we’re proceeding down a path with virtually no information” in the Value Engineering report on Vertreat, and staff estimates on the cost of construction could be incorrect.“I would be curious why the president of Noram is not comfortable” having the Mill Valley representative meet with the Council, said Vice Mayor John Procter. The man from “Mill Valley is a distributor,” said Finley.“We’ve been working on this for four years” and the city is facing fines of up to $25,000, a day noted Aguirre. “I’m concerned that Vertreat does not have a municipal application. What concerns me about the man from Mill Valley is that he is a distributor and he is a salesman” who might lack the technical knowledge required for the discussion, but still claim that the technology would be suitable for Santa Paula.“You’ve had a number of years to work with that; we haven’t, not this side of the table,” said Gonzales, who noted that he has communicated with the wastewater treatment plant operator in Homer, Alaska, which utilizes deep shaft technology and “said it works great.”“Alaska is not California,” noted Aguirre. “California is a leader in environmental protection” and has higher standards that the city must adhere to.Fernandez said he had also communicated with the people in Alaska, and that the technology exceeds that state’s guidelines.Procter said he would prefer that Noram representatives deal with the Council, as he had spoken to the Mill Valley representative who had made “some really blatant errors” during the discussion, including misidentifying the city’s current system. “He didn’t have a great level of detail... I would rather hear from the scientists.”Since no cost estimate has been provided for the Vertreat process, Procter said he would expect to hear same as well as the requirement that two systems would be needed per state redundancy mandates. The Vertreat system requires an approximately 15-foot diameter and 300-foot deep shaft.