South Bay Area Water Treatment Plant Breaks Ground

Phase one of the rehabilitation will focus on building new primary treatment facilities, which are expected to be completed by 2020 and will cost $100 million.

by Victoria Kezra, The Cupertino Courier, Calif. / July 29, 2016
Sunnyvale Water Pollution Control flickr/Will Scullin

(TNS) -- The city of Sunnyvale has officially kicked off the largest capital project in its history.

On July 11, the city held a groundbreaking ceremony for phase one of its rehabilitation of the Donald M. Somers Water Pollution Control Plant. The plant is responsible for treating the sewage of 148,000 residents, businesses and industries in Sunnyvale and some parts of Cupertino and San Jose.

"Any time you flush your toilet or shower or you send water down a drain, the water goes to the treatment plant and it gets treated," said Sunnyvale director of public works Manuel Pineda. "Some water is recycled and some gets released into the bay. This plant is treating all the water that Sunnyvale residents use. It's one of those things everyone uses that you don't think about much."

The plant was built in 1956 and has been in continuous operation since. It is also one of the oldest treatment plants on the West Coast. There have been repairs done to parts of the plant, and additional parts have been built in order to keep it functioning, but due to its overall age, the entire facility will be upgraded in the five-phase project.

In 1972 new technology in wastewater treatment led to the expansion of the plant. When the plant was originally built, it had the capacity to treat 15 million gallons of water per day. The last capacity upgrade to the plant was done in 1984 and allowed for 22.5 million gallons of treated wastewater a day. An average, dry weather workload for the plant to process and treat in 2015 was 14.5 million gallons of wastewater per day.

The plant treats water via primary, secondary and tertiary processes. Phase one of the rehabilitation will focus on building new primary treatment facilities, which are expected to be completed by 2020 and will cost $100 million.

The second and third phases are expected to be done by 2030 and cost $350 million altogether. The price for the final two phases hasn't been estimated yet. The completion of all five phases is expected to be in 2042. The money for the project will come from rates paid by residents and businesses for wastewater.

In December, the city council voted to submit an application to the state of California asking for up to $160 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for the project. The city is expected to hear in the next few months if it will receive the money.

Approximately 50 city employees and some city council members attended the groundbreaking ceremony. Some posed with Pineda and director of environmental services John Stufflebean for a photo in front of construction equipment with shovels at the ready, symbolizing the start of the project.

"This has been a huge effort. There have been hundreds of people involved from city staff to designers, to consultants, the environmental services department and the council," said Pineda. "It's an exciting project that needed to happen, and it's the largest capital project in the city."

The plant occupies nearly 17 acres at 1444 Borregas Ave. and maintains an additional 440 acres of oxidation ponds.

©2016 The Cupertino Courier (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.