SANTA PAULA, CALIF. — Local and regional government officials, members of the local community, and project team members participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony of the award-winning Santa Paula Water Recycling Facility on June 2nd. In 2007, the city of Santa Paula’s non-compliant, almost 70-year-old wastewater treatment facility faced severe compliance fines and needed to be replaced quickly. However, the city lacked certainty of funding, cost, and schedule to achieve its compliance mandate. Realizing traditional delivery methods would not provide adequate certainty, they chose to utilize a public-private partnership.
In May 2008, the city contracted with Santa Paula Water (an alliance of PERC Water Corporation and Alinda Capital Partners) to design, build, operate (for 30 years), and finance the new facility. The facility was completed in May 2010 — seven months ahead of schedule.
Brian Cullen, president of PERC Water, said the city council wanted "certainty for the long term for the citizens of Santa Paula. They were very insightful to have that certainty of compliance, certainty of capacity, and certainty of cost for 30 years."
Philip Dyk, a partner at Alinda Capital, said, "If the city had taken a more traditional finance route, they would have (had difficulty) trying to raise money," when funds were needed to complete construction within the regulatory timeframe. The facility was 100 percent privately funded and the city did not pay anything toward the facility until after it was in full operation. They now pay a monthly service fee, which includes 30 years of capital replacements, debt service, and operations and maintenance.
David Dornbirer, a vice president at CoBank, one of the project’s lenders, said, "This is a first of its kind financing. … People all over the country and internationally in the water sector know where Santa Paula, Calif., is because of the innovative nature of this facility and this project."
The facility has been the recipient of many national and international awards, including most recently the Design-Build Institute of America Western Pacific Region’s top tier Best Project – Water Award.
The facility is designed to complement the surrounding area, including a small footprint where all treatment occurs in underground tanks covered by attractive operations buildings. Mayor Robinson added the facility produces "no odors," specifically thanking the team as the original facility was notorious for its smell. He added that the facility is "a wonderful addition to (their) community."
The facility is considered one of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective of its kind in the world according to Shane Trussell, Ph.D., an expert in membrane bioreactors and the project’s process design advisor. The city saved on average more than $10,000 a month in the first seven months of operation as a result of the facility’s energy-saving technology. The recycled water produced by the facility exceeds the state requirements by 60 percent on average, much of that a result of the Koch Membranes utilized in the treatment process.
Jamie Matthews, senior vice president of PACE (the project’s engineer of record), said, "Engineers often get caught up thinking their job is done when the plans are out," but with a design, build, operate and finance project, their job "isn’t done for 30 plus years."
To learn more about this project and watch the case study video, visit www.percwater.com.