By Donna Westfall – March 3, 2016 – Are there ways to save ratepayers on their sewer rates?
During the 2007 workshops on how the $43.8 million loan was to be repaid, former Public Works Director, Jim Barnts, told us that the laboratory, which cost $2.5 million to build, would pay for itself in 2 – 1/2 years. Almost eight years later and the lab has not made one cent of profit.
So, that was, in my opinion, clearly a lie.
We were led to believe that less that 3,700 customers could repay a $43.8 million loan in 20 years with 2.4% interest. No one believed that either. We’re currently at 3,427 customers. The situation has only gotten worse despite the elimination of all interest and extending the loan to 30 years. Why is that? Because the loan amount was too large for this little area, and in my opinion, the loan was based on fraud. Add to the mix an un-elected water board, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, that approved this unwise loan, and what do you have? A financial disaster of huge proportions. Add to that the City wants another $36 million for Phase Two, which they recently denied.
During other meetings we were told that the water quality would be so good because of the MBR technology, that we could re-use that water on Front Street Park, and sell that water. So far, not one center of profit has been made from that venture because according to City Public Utilities Manager, Eric Wier, there are “complex problems” in getting that program to work.
When we asked, “What are the complex problems?” No one answered. Why aren’t any of our City Council members asking these questions? Are any of them part of the fraud?
We haul out sludge that costs us a pretty penny. With that in mind, here is an article by Michael Ceremello, former Vice Mayor and Councilman from the City of Dixon who’s town is going to spend $22 million to deal with sludge when it could be made into a profit center. We were all told that FOG (fats, oils and grease) were bad for our system and in particular, businesses would be fined if they didn’t deal with it.
Are there ways to save ratepayers on their sewer rates?
I think the answer is, “yes,” but the solutions will have to be force fed down the throats of the City Council and City staff just like their single minded force feeding of the ratepayers with ever increasing sewer rates.
Dixon Once Again Misses Boat
By Michael Ceremello
This article is based on a piece written by Robert Hoshowsky in the February 2016 edition of Business In Focus magazine entitled Transforming Waste Into Profits.
Dixon’s boat came in but no one got on board. One has to question the research ability of city staff who have steadfastly refused to believe there is a better alternative to activated sludge at our sewer plant. At a cost of $22 million for just this antiquated technology alone, it is worth reflection on the long term effects of having to continually haul off sewer sludge and utilize enormous amounts of energy to run the process which contributes to green house gas emissions.
Robert Hoshowsky interviewed both Alan Rozich of BioConversion Solutions and John Williams of In-Pipe Technology®, Inc. and came to the conclusion that there is a better way which has existed since 2003. BCS, formerly PMC BioTec, was bought by In-Pipe in July of 2014, shortly after In-Pipe made their presentation to the city council. Mayor Jack Batchelor and four councilman could not understand the preliminary benefits of employing the basic bacteriological solution of In-Pipe, let alone the possible future for accumulating further cutting edge technology such as Ferrate Treatment Technology or BCS.
BioConversion Solutions, LLC (BCS) has the systems and solutions to transform dealing with biomass from an expense into a profit for cities and companies worldwide. Instead of sludge requiring treatment and disposal, BCS has developed sophisticated technologies that allow customers to design, build, and operate biological conversion plants.
Yes, that is correct folks. Instead of just a never ending stream of spending courtesy of this city council, the city could be enjoying a revenue stream generated by this technology.
The technology of BioConversion Solutions reduces not only the amount of sludge to be hauled off, but results in a high-grade fertilizer. This creates a profitable by-product and a market which didn’t exist twenty years ago.
“We have done a number of papers on the collection system, whether it’s fats, oils, and grease odor control, or load reduction and compliance,” comments Williams. “So there are a number of benefits in converting collection systems into an active part of plants. And the great thing is, now that we have BioConversion Solutions as a partner, we can go into a plant and also convert the plant into a profit center, instead of a cost center.”
In addition to fertilizer, which can either be pure phosphorus or a liquid fertilizer composed of all three main components of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the N-P-K numbers seen on fertilizer bags, pure water is also a by-product of their processes.
While Dixon’s wastewater committee was looking for solutions to address ground water pollution, sludge removal, and capacity issues, the very solution was hidden from them by city engineer Joe Leach and the city’s consultant Stantec which stands to make $3 million from the larger than necessary upgrades currently being put into place.
“This is a very important and synergistic technology In-Pipe,” said the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer John Williams at the time. “BCS’s processes complement our technology and adds to our consortium of sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies.”
In-Pipe brought numerous benefits including a patented high-concentration formulation of ‘facultative, naturally occurring, non-pathogenic bacteria.’ This is added throughout a sewer system and does not require additional energy, improves lives within plants, increases capacity, and delays expensive and time-consuming upgrades by extending the life of existing infrastructure.
For those still in denial of this truth, one only has to look at the city of Olds in Alberta, Canada.
One example of In-Pipe Technology’s use can be seen in the town of Olds, Alberta, which earned a sustainability awards two years in a row through its use of the company’s innovations. Back in 2006, Olds was investigating an upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant.
The wastewater treatment plant needed to be in compliance with values set for biological oxygen demand (BOD) (the amount of dissolved oxygen needed to break down organic material by aerobic organisms) and total suspended solids (TSS), but was not able to meet the limits. This put Olds’ taxpayers at risk of fines. In-Pipe was recommended and came up with an ingenious solution: place twenty two dosing panels throughout the town’s wastewater system. These were designed to release liquid every few minutes, with a one-liter bottle lasting an entire month.
The added bacteria attacked grease, fats, and oils throughout the wastewater system. This resulted in Olds being in compliance with regulations while reducing labor costs for city workers who would have otherwise have had to clean grease pits. It also avoided major capital expansion to meet deadlines.
“Since going to this, and getting our limits down and better treatment, (it is) not only better for other communities downstream from us, but also the aquatic life that’s in the river,” says Scott Chant, manager of utilities and public works. In-Pipe’s sustainable technology allowed Olds to improve effluent quality and lower influent loads, increase capacity, and it saw a twenty-five percent reduction in sludge volumes, with no extra energy consumption.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, it is because the city of Dixon faced the same problems with BOD and TSS. The city also put into place an ordinance regulating fats, oils, and grease but puts the onus on businesses to address this rather than providing a comprehensive solution.
Rozich summed up the problem of convincing councils and communities rather succinctly. Among its many other objectives is education, says Rozich. “I don’t think people really understand what we are being faced with. We have an old economy and a new economy. An old economy is: we dig it out of the ground, we use it, and we throw it back in the ground. The new economy is: we take byproduct streams, reprocess, harvest the resource assets out of the stream, and reintroduce them back into the economy without them spending over a billion years in a landfill.”
Recalcitrance coupled with no desire to do the research required to make good decisions is the hallmark of our current city council in Dixon. Listening to an advisory committee who did the research the council was unwilling or unable to do, would have been a first step in saving the taxpayers of Dixon on their sewer rates. Instead we only hear that the wastewater committee did nothing for seven years despite getting legislation passed at the State level to ban self regenerating salt discharging water softeners.