St. Pete City Council approved approximately $67 million for upgrades to the city’s biosolids program. The Biosolids and Waste to Energy Project is expected to make the city’s wastewater treatment procedures more sustainable and come with significant savings.
“The Biosolids and Waste to Energy Project will provide a means to produce a sustainable Class A biosolids suitable for use as a soil amendment, reduce operational costs for biosolids processing by consolidating operations at the [Southwest Water Reclamation Facility], provide needed replacement of worn and obsolete equipment, produce renewable biogas fuel to power vehicles and produce electrical energy for facility operations, and reduce the city’s carbon footprint,” a City Council supplement on the issue read.
The vote included five separate expenditures. The largest of which is to the Haskell Company for just under $65 million designating the company as the project’s Construction Manager at Risk.
A second amendment to the construction manager at risk agreement with the Haskell Company with a GMP just under $65 million. Another $1.6 million will go to the company Brown and Caldwell for construction phase services. The rest of the planned expenditures on the project will go to other construction services from AECOM, Black and Veatch Corporation and Carollo Engineers.
The project is expected to be online by 2019.
Though approved, the project did not come without questions. Several residents around Eckerd College where a current treatment plant leaves quite the stench spoke on the project with concerns that foul smells would continue with increased infrastructure.
“Eckerd has a set of dorms they can keep freshman in because by the time they’re sophomores they know better because it stinks so bad,” Council member Steve Kornell said, echoing concerns.
City staff assured council, however, that several measures would be taken to ensure stinky water treatment was reduced. The project includes facilities for odor control as well as enclosed areas for things like dewatering that are currently done in the open and lead to foul smells.
The project comes with about $3.7 million of operational savings each year that will kick off when the new facilities come online. About $1.5 million of those savings will be realized when factoring in payments to money borrowed for the project.
Kornell questioned whether those savings could be used to fund future improvements to the city’s water infrastructure without raising utility rates for residents. Staff suggested that was a possibility, but wouldn’t commit one way or the other.
Water issues in St. Pete long buried in the news as one of the most non-sexy of city government issues became a common headline last summer after the city dumped millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into local waterways after an extraordinary rain event that left the city’s infrastructure overburdened.
One of the issues that arose during that event was that the city had taken offline a facility at Albert Whitted Airport.
“We closed capacity at Albert Whitted before we opened capacity to replace it at Southwest,” Council member Charlie Gerdes said noting that the city had dropped the ball with that decision.
He clarified that such a reduction in capacity would not occur with this project.