Thursday, October 22, 2015

City Council approves Benicia Water Reuse amendment

   After some discussion, City Council voted unanimously to approve an amendment regarding Benicia’s Water Reuse Project at its regular meeting Tuesday.
   On Aug. 18, City Council approved an agreement with engineering consulting firm Brown and Caldwell to conduct a feasibility study for Benicia’s Water Reuse Project. The project aims to reduce imported water by recycling up to 1.9 million gallons per day into Valero’s cooling towers.
   After approval of the agreement, the Council asked for clarification on five issues: defining the critical milestones for whether to proceed with the project, considering options other than Valero, the financial feasibility of the project, conducting prior outreach before going over the California Environmental Quality Act work and the environmental review scope of work. 
   In a Power Point presentation to the Council on Tuesday, Water Quality Supervisor Dan Jackson took to the floor to answer these questions. He identified the milestones of the project as well as the scheduled dates of when they will be completed. The scope of service would be decided at that night’s meeting, the city and Valero will decide if the alternative is feasible in March, the feasibility study will be completed in June, Valero will decide if the project will be supported in Fall 2016, a grant application will be submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board in December 2016 and it will be approved in early 2017.
   Under one possible scenario, Jackson said the total annual cost would be $1.4 million with the total capital cost being $27 million. 
   He also noted that without the Water Reuse project, the city imports 8 million gallons of water over the course of a year from the State Water Project and Solano Project. Half of it is potable water that is used outdoors and indoors, and the other half is raw water that goes to cooling towers and boilers or other uses at the Valero Benicia Refinery. The indoor water then is discharged into the Carquinez Strait after being treated by state standards, Jackson said.
   However, in a future drought under the Water Reuse Project, the indoor water will be recycled into the cooling towers, and the outdoor water will be reduced. 
   Jackson also noted that if Valero is unable to use all 1.9 million gallons, city staff will look at the top five users in the Industrial Park, and a public workshop will be held in December or January. 
   Councilmember Tom Campbell asked what the costs would be for the second, third and fourth steps of the project before the grant application.
   “By the time we get to that milestone, we probably will have spent a little more than half of 660,000,” Jackson said. “It’s probably more than that.”
   Campbell then asked if the ballpark figure was around $400,000. Jackson assured that it was probably a little more than that, but it wasn’t a definite amount.
   “Rather than answer it off the top of my head in a City Council meeting, we could analyze that more specifically and get back to you on that,” he said.
   City Manager Brad Kilger agreed that they’d need to come back with a more specific number.
   “When we originally brought this to you, we did discuss that this was a bit of an investment,” he said. “It was not a guarantee, and one of the reasons I was recommending it is we were not using general fund money. Every dollar is important, but this was coming out of wastewater capacity fees, and this is consistent with that.”
   Councilmember Alan Schwartzman asked if there would be any additional payments from Valero.
   “No,” Jackson responded. “This model was done solely with the city financing it through grants and loans and then recovering those costs at the time by charging the customer.”
   The Council determined that the scope of service was acceptable. The next step will be for the city and Valero to see if the project is feasible and then see if the city can meet the water quality criteria.

   In other business, the Council voted unanimously to read an amendment allowing the Community Sustainability Commission to engage in fundraising activities. 

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