Last month, Santa Barbara County began phase one of construction for the $53 million Laguna County Sanitation District upgrade project.
Originally constructed in 1959, the wastewater plant has, for the most part, exceeded its useful life, which is typically 40 years.
The upgrade will completely modernize all the equipment and technology in order to comply with Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements for the next 50 years.
“We realized that we weren’t looking into the future,” Martin Wilder, the utilities manager for the county, told the News-Press. “We weren’t going to be able to provide adequate service and it would have become a problem very soon.”
The last upgrade to the plant was in 2001 for regulatory compliance reasons.
The new upgrade will include a new headworks, ultraviolet disinfection break tank, a laboratory and operations building, activated sludge and secondary clarifier process facilities, on-site stormwater facilities and electrical improvements.
The second phase of the project will increase the plant’s treatment capacity from 3.7 to 5 million gallons per day.
“It’s going to help us set the tone for the next 50 years,” Mr. Wilder said.
The reclamation plant is located west of the Dutard Road and Black Road intersection northwest of Orcutt, and the district currently treats 1.8 million gallons of wastewater per day and maintains 128 miles of pipeline, serving a population of approximately 35,000 with nearly 12,000 residential and business customers.
All the water recycled at the plant is used for irrigation and industrial purposes.
It will also serve the Northern Branch Jail when construction is finished, which is expected in 2023.
Constructing the project is the W.M. Lyles Company.
The upgrade will result in a marginal increase in electric bills, which the county aimed to offset by installing solar panels.
However, utility service charges were adjusted over several years to generate capital reserves to fund most of the work and assist in qualifying for lower interest rates on a Certificate of Participation.
“It’s a pretty big project for the county,” Mr. Wilder added. “We hope to totally modernize the plant using modern technology to project our high quality of service way into the future.”
County officials also offered comments on the project, including 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam and 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.
“This is a 60-year old piece of equipment, and it’s time to get this updated. When I came into office, some people questioned why we needed a new plant. The lack of opposition today is a good indication that we convinced Orcutt ratepayers of the value of this project,” said Mr. Adam.
Mr. Lavagnino added, “With surface water becoming scarce and expensive, maximizing water efficiency is vital to our parks, facilities, and agriculture. Laguna Sanitation’s recycled water is an essential drought-resistant supply for our residents and visitors in the Santa Maria Valley.”
To learn more about the district, visit www.countyofsb.org/pwd/laguna.sbc.