Billions needed to replace outdated water - wastewater facilities



U.S. and Canadian cities and towns will spend over US$80 billion to upgrade and expand municipal wastewater treatment facilities over the next 5 years.

This will represent 15 percent of the global spending for this segment. Some of these expenditures are just replacement of outdated facilities. Others are to meet water pollution discharge limits or reduction of odors. Some of the expenditures, particularly in California, Florida and other areas with population growth, are to accommodate increased population.

These projects are tracked on a biweekly basis in the McIlvaine online North American Municipal Wastewater Treatment Facilities & People report. Here is a sampling of current projects:

  • Pima County, Arizona has a US$720 milllion program to upgrade its wastewater facilities. This includes a US$270 million upgrade at the Ina Road Wastewater plant. MWH is one of the main contractors.
  • Forth Worth, Texas is debating among three locations and will soon pick one for a new wastewater treatment plant. The Mary's Creek Water Recycling Center would be a state-of-the-art facility, and it would produce treated water suitable for uses such as irrigation and cooling.
  • The City and County of Honolulu is close to reaching a settlement over a lawsuit which will force US$1.2 billion worth of upgrades at two wastewater treatment plants on Oahu. The agreement, which still faces some minor hurdles, requires the city to bring the Honouliuli and Sand Island wastewater treatment plants to full secondary treatment. The city would be given until at least 2020 to complete the costly upgrades.
  • The aging San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant in Milpitas, California needs a retrofit to prevent odor transmissions by enclosing the treatment areas, installing new digesters and other needed improvements at a cost close to US$1 billion.
  • Vacaville, California will spend an estimated US$150 million in improvements to the Elmira-area facility in order to comply with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • Bayview District of San Francisco will spend US$600-US$900 million to replace outdated digesters.
  • The cape towns of Massachusetts are facing either regional solutions at about US$3 billion or town by town wastewater treatment expansions and upgrades costing US$8 billion.
  • In British Columbia, Canada the Capital Regional District (CRD) has opted to build a single regional treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and to pipe waste solids to a digester plant at Hartland Landfill. The regional sewage treatment will cost about US$782 million to build and US$14.5 million per year to operate.
  • Sioux City, Iowa is rebuilding and expanding its Wastewater Treatment Plant at an estimated cost of US$71 million.
  • Wilsonville, Oregon is moving forward to modernize its Wastewater Treatment Plant at an estimated US$60 million.

Some cities, unfortunately, are upgrading plants which were recently expanded or upgraded but do not meet the emission limits. Salisbury, MD has a US$54 million plan with a five-year timeline to fix the negative results of an US$80 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant.

The goal of the initial upgrade was to decrease nitrogen levels flowing from the plant into the Wicomico River. But the plant is not meeting the nutrient removal limit set by the state -- 6 milligrams of nitrogen per liter of wastewater.

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