Santa Rosa explores high-strength wastewater option

[caption id="attachment_88477" align="alignnone" width="438"] City of Santa Rosa's Laguna de Santa Rosa wastewater treatment plant (image courtesy of the city of Santa Rosa)[/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- The Santa Rosa City Council on March 4 is expected to allocate new funding to study allowing trucks to deliver high-strength wastewater directly to the Laguna Wastewater Treatment Plant, a potential boon for regional wineries, breweries and others that currently haul such waste to a treatment facility in Oakland.

Part of a broader $1.2 million allocation of funding from the California Public Utilities Commission, the approval would be an early but tangible step toward a long-discussed proposal to further accommodate the accelerating growth of the region's beverage and food producers.

While determining the specific amount of North Bay waste currently trucked to the large Oakland Treatment Plant is difficult, wine industry waste -- most from the North Coast -- accounts for between 4 percent and 5 percent of total trucked waste at the plant annually, according to a spokesperson for the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Rerouting that waste to the plant in Santa Rosa, along with brewery waste and other sources like dairies, could generate new revenue for the facility, reduce transportation expenses and increase efficiency, according to industry advocates and planners.

"Who wants to drive to East Bay MUD when you can go three miles?" said David Guhin, Santa Rosa's director of utilities.

While other wastewater facilities in the North Bay have explored the concept in the past, the existing capacity of the Laguna plant and the allocation of funding by the city council could mean that necessary upgrades go forward as early as this year, Mr. Guhin said.

The decision would hinge on a number of factors, including identification of up to $1 million in funding to construct a receiving station at the Laguna plant, according to Mr. Guhin and council materials. The council is expected to allocate $150,000 toward the proposal through a consent calendar vote on March 4, along with other measures related to the Laguna plant.

That cost could be significantly mitigated in the long term by the fact that the Laguna plant captures methane produced from the breakdown of organic waste for energy production. Redirecting waste destined for the East Bay would mean more methane production, reducing an electricity bill that currently averages $4 million per year, the utility director said.

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