MCSD may bring in engineering specialists to review town’s massive sewer treatment plant upgrade

McKinleyville may hire a team of engineering experts to pick apart its plans for a massive sewer upgrade and determine whether there are ways the town can get more bang for its buck.
At its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 7, the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of logo_mcsd_cmykDirectors may approve a $93,671 contract with Robinson, Stafford & Rude Inc (RSRI). to conduct what’s called a “value engineering review” of the MCSD’s proposed wastewater treatment plant upgrade. The company, based in Gulfport, Florida, will also review the entire process in an effort to find greater efficiencies and improvements.
MCSD Manager Greg Orsini said that although the value engineering review is pricey, it could result in substantial savings for the district.
The proposed sewer upgrade – the largest in McKinleyville’s history since the collection system was built 32 years ago – is estimated to cost from $8.5 million to $11 million. In January, the board approved a $1,013,502 contract with the company of Kennedy/Jenks just for the engineering.
RSRI has a team of engineering specialists who will pick apart the plans, conduct critical reviews of various elements of the sewer upgrade and crunch numbers to see to it that the district is getting the best deal for its money.
“They basically play the devil’s advocate,” Orsini said..
For example, the company would review various pieces of equipment that are called for in the sewer upgrade. A piece of equipment could be cheaper to purchase, but perhaps it has a shorter life-span than a more expensive piece of equipment. Or maybe the equipment is cheaper to buy, but has a higher operating cost. RSRI will crunch these numbers and provide the MCSD with recommendations.
Orsini said he called around and checked with other agencies that have conducted value engineering reviews. Some of them reported that the reviews resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost savings. With a project of the magnitude of McKinleyville’s, the savings could be even greater.
If the contract is approved by the MCSD board, the company would begin reviewing the sewer plans and return to the district with a report in November. It would be up to the district whether to following the company’s recommendations or not.
Construction on the sewer upgrade may begin in 2015. The project will convert the Wastewater Treatment Facility at Hiller Park from a low-tech pond system to a mechanical sewer plant similar to what can be found in larger cities.
The purpose of the upgrade is to improve the treatment process so the sewer system can continue to meet state standards and regulations, which will ratchet up in the coming years.
One of the biggest problems with current system is “acute toxicity” in the wastewater effluent, which is discharged into the Mad River during winter months when river flows are high enough. During the summer, or when river flows drop, the wastewater is used to irrigate pastures at the MCSD’s Fischer Ranch at the corner of School and Fischer roads.
This toxicity in the wastewater is caused by excessive amounts of ammonia, a naturally occurring chemical found in wastewater. In order to remove the ammonia, and generally increase the quality of the treatment process, the MCSD plans to build mechanical aerators and clarifiers at the plant.
Wednesday’s MCSD meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Azalea Hall, 1620 Pickett Road, McKinleyville. The meeting is open to the public and time is set aside for public comment. Email addresses and phone numbers for local government folks can be found at

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