The Aug. 6 editorial, "That billion-dollar project at the nearby sewage treatment plant may cost Milpitas," raised important issues surrounding the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant and its three-year Plant Master Plan process. You are correct that Milpitas has a large stake in the outcome of the Plant Master Plan project, which is why I'd like to clarify a few facts and provide more project information.
Plant Master Plan
The San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant is more than 50 years old and serves eight South Bay cities, which include 1.4 million residents and 16,000 businesses. The plant is co-owned by San JosŽ and Santa Clara and managed by the City of San JosŽ. The outcome of the Plant Master Plan will affect everyone in the plant's service area the cities of San JosŽ, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga.
The technologies being considered go beyond covering the "180 acres of the active tanks, filters and pipes." New technologies will accommodate climate change, sea level rise, stricter regulations and population growth to ensure the plant is able to maintain operations for the next 30 years. Additionally, they would increase the plant's energy efficiency, decrease the acreage needed for treatment, and decrease odors, not necessarily by using covers for all parts of the plant.
Implementing new technologies creates the opportunity to envision new land
Project cost and sewer rates
As the largest advanced wastewater treatment plant on the West Coast, we are proud that our service area rates are average or below those of other similar facilities. The projected cost will be spread over the eight South Bay cities served by the plant, and improve more than just the plant's odors Ð the upgrades and rehabilitation mentioned above are essential to the region's public health and the fragile shoreline environment. The $1 billion is an estimate of the current repair and rehabilitation needs of the plant. Addressing the repair needs is included in the Plant Master Plan project.
The plant is conscious of the project cost and already practices economical wastewater solutions. The plant produces cleaned biosolids, referred to as "sludge" in the editorial. These cleaned biosolids are used to cover trash at the landfill. Partnering with the neighboring Newby Island Landfill to reuse cleaned biosolids is the most economical option for both the plant and the landfill.
The plant also reduces costs by using innovative power sources Ð producing one-third of its own energy through the methane gas from its digester tanks, and importing another one third of its energy from methane gas produced by the landfill. The Plant Master Plan aims to increase the plant's energy efficiency and increase the amount of power it generates.
Public input and involvement
We are committed to collecting feedback from the public and specifically from our outreach to the Milpitas community:
-A Milpitas representative serves on the Plant Master Plan's Community Advisory Group, a group of community members who give consistent input throughout the master plan process, to ensure their interests are included.
-The plant tour program has been extremely successful with great public and media interest. Tours are offered the first and third Thursdays and Saturdays of the month, through October 2009. A bill insert and direct-mail invitation was sent to all Milpitas residents.
-The Plant Master Plan's public workshop in May 2009 was publicized through advertisements in the Milpitas Post and letters to all neighborhood and homeowners associations.
As a plant neighbor, Milpitas is an important stakeholder and we want to hear your community's interests. For more project information and to submit input, visit www.sanjoseca.gov/esd/plantmasterplan or contact Project Planner Matt Krupp at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-John Stufflebean, director, City of San JosŽ Environmental Services Department