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September 2021 Newsletter

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September 30, 2021


Welcome to SVCW’s monthly newsletter! There are many exciting events and experiences occurring at SVCW, some of which you’ll read about in this edition. Of particular--and exciting--note, Salus, the tunnel boring machine, completed its tunneling for our new gravity sewer, which will convey wastewater from our community members to our treatment facility. We made the decision to use a tunneling method four years ago with many questions and unknowns at the time. Due to the robust planning, background investigating, and engineering diligence, tunneling went extremely smoothly and successfully. I give high credit to our SVCW Commission for entrusting staff to make the project a success and to the project team who continue to work closely and collaboratively. The work is not done – there is another year or so to go – but the tunneling portion of the project has been completed.

A couple of weeks ago, it was an honor and privilege to host U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan, Oro Loma Sanitary District Board President Rita Duncan, and other local officials to announce Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans totaling $168 million for water system upgrades in Redwood City and Alameda County! We are immensely grateful and proud of the partnership SVCW has with EPA, a collaboration that has allowed SVCW to lead the industry with innovative and sustainable capital improvement projects. We look forward to our continued alliance by advancing our shared commitment to the protection of public health and our environment for generations to come.

No article from me would be complete without a note on safety! Our culture around safety is strong and enduring; it revolves around physical, emotional, and mental safety, encompassing all aspects of the human experience. Two high-risk areas that we see occurring worldwide are COVID-19 (and all its variants) and cyber-attacks. At SVCW, we place a high emphasis on both, and while I don’t write regularly about our cyber-security efforts, we take this form of safety and security seriously. SVCW’s efforts ensure that our wastewater conveyance, treatment, and disposal facilities function without a hitch and that our staff’s personal information is maintained confidentially. I have a high level of confidence in our Information Services Division to keep our information safe, and an equally high level of confidence in our employees to approach cyber-security as part of our overall safety culture.

Thanks for visiting and please be safe and healthy!

Salus Reaches Final Destination

Good news! Salus, the mighty tunnel boring machine (TBM), has successfully completed its second tunneling drive and has tunneled into the receiving shaft located at the Front of Plant. Even more good news, having tunneled over 12,000 feet from its launch shaft at the intersection of Shoreway Road and Holly Street, Salus has once again reached its destination on time and on target at Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW)’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. This is the second major milestone for the Gravity Pipeline project team since Salus' first break-in on Bair Island that happened at the end of March 2020. 

Working through COVID-19

Having to work through COVID-19 from the end of the first tunneling drive through the second tunneling drive, SVCW and SVCW's contractor partner, Bernard-Bessac Joint Venture (BBJV), did a tremendous job keeping up with all health and safety guidelines while adjusting work procedures to ensure that tunneling production was safe and on schedule. BBJV implemented strict COVID-19 safety protocols, including staggering crews, daily symptom checks, and increased cleaning. Because of BBJV's mitigation efforts, the project continued with no lost time due to COVID-19.

A Job Well Done

During the second drive between the Airport Access Shaft and SVCW Treatment Plant, BBJV successfully tunneled approximately 12,300 feet and navigated four compound curves through a variety of soil conditions. This success can be attributed to the experienced miners, extensive surveying program, and our sophisticated tunnel boring machine (TBM), Salus.

The final tunnel survey confirmed that the TBM had successfully navigated the 2.3 miles of tunnel, landing within 70 mm (2.75 in) horizontally and 6 mm (0.25 in) vertically of the designed tunnel. This is well within the tolerances assigned at the beginning of the project. 

BBJV implemented an extensive survey program during tunneling to track the surface settlement seen above the TBM as it moved underground. The miners and TBM operators use that data to modify their operating parameters to reduce any settlement experienced. Thanks to this program, no utilities or buildings were affected due to settlement. 

Again, a big CONGRATULATIONS to SVCW and RESCU’s Gravity Pipeline project team!

Keeping Up the Pace - Embarking on New Energy Optimization Opportunities

Since its inception, SVCW has proactively focused on optimizing energy generation and maximizing energy recovery in the wastewater process, while meeting all water quality standards. SVCW is excited to embark on two new initiatives to further optimize treatment plant operation and increase energy efficiency – accelerating a pathway towards sustainable infrastructure.

Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of The Future Energy Recovery (SWIFTER) Accelerator Program

The first collaboration is with the US Department of Energy (DOE) on the SWIFTER (Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of The Future Energy Recovery) Accelerator program. As part of this program, the DOE works with municipal wastewater partners to provide customized technical assistance on energy data management, energy efficiency improvements, advanced technology integration, and project financing. SVCW will work with DOE’s network of national laboratories and industry experts towards establishing an energy use baseline, reporting energy data, developing an infrastructure improvement plan and adopting an energy reduction goal. The team will also work on initiating infrastructure improvement for at least one next-generation advanced technology identified through this Accelerator. This is a voluntary no-cost agreement for SVCW that also allows peer-exchange opportunities with other municipal wastewater treatment facilities across the nation.

Risk Assessment, Process Improvement, Decision Support (RAPIDS) Program

In parallel, SVCW is teaming with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) on the RAPIDS (Risk Assessment, Process Improvement, Decision Support) program. RAPIDS is facilitated by AESC consultants and its partners to help SVCW reduce its energy demands while continuously improving utility function, performance, and reliability. This is achieved by a combination of gap analysis, alternative technology selection and high-frequency performance metrics and control. The RAPIDS program offers customized support to SVCW for identifying optimization opportunities and conducting risk analyses for decision making, and also provides incentives for preliminary design engineering support and deployment of submetering equipment. This program is at no cost to SVCW and is wholly funded by California utility customers. It is administered through PG&E under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Stay tuned for further updates on these exciting initiatives!

How It Works…

SVCW’s leadership to partner with universities, Federal and State agencies, and private companies to support the development of innovative technologies provides significant benefits to our ratepayers. Every day, the water, energy, and solids management fields are showing advances in technology to improve water treatment processes, produce and save energy, meet new regulations, protect our environment, and recover limited resources at a lower cost. 

One unique public-private partnership is with Mango Materials who is aiming to help mitigate climate change by harnessing problematic methane and transforming it into a biodegradable plastic alternative. In other words, this technology battles two environmental issues at the same time: climate change and plastic pollution.

They constructed a 500-liter pilot plant on-site to convert biogas into biopolymer which, has been up and running since 2015. How does it work? We convert methane from biogas waste into a biodegradable biopolymer called PHA, which can then be used to replace the plastic in our packaging to the polyester in our clothing.

Mango Materials have been operating small bioreactors at SVCW to demonstrate that its novel process could successfully replicate naturally produced biopolymers, using untreated biogas--a potent greenhouse gas--drawn straight from an anaerobic digester.

This biogas waste is used to feed bacteria that will produce PHA. Through controlled conditions, Mango Materials triggers the bacteria to think a "famine is coming," so they store the carbon inside their cell walls instead of using it to reproduce. This forces the bacteria to yield very high levels of PHA, which are turned into pellets that can be formulated into injection molding, which is well-suited for products like caps and bottles. It can also be made into special fibers which can be an alternative to polyester found in apparel and upholstery, difficult-to-recycle flexible packaging and more. Read more here.

RESCU Updates

We're on track and continuing to make progress on the Regional Environmental Sewer Conveyance Upgrade (RESCU), the rehabilitation and replacement of SVCW's conveyance system. When complete, it will ensure that for many decades to come, SVCW can efficiently, reliably, and safely convey and treat wastewater from its four member agencies. Those include Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City, and the West Bay Sanitary District (which serves the cities of Menlo Park, Portola Valley, and portions of Atherton, Woodside, East Palo Alto, and unincorporated areas of San Mateo County).

Gravity Pipeline

With Salus, the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), successfully completing its second tunneling drive, it's time to head home to its original manufacturer, Herrenknect in Germany. They will refurbish and resell to another buyer for its next adventure. 

SVCW’s contractor partner, Barnard-Bessac Joint Venture (BBJV), has started to disassemble Salus section by section. BBJV started with the disassembly of the cutter head at the front of the TBM, followed by the front and middle shield that forms the protective shell and body of Salus. Other sections of Salus and its supporting equipment (referenced as gantries) will be disassembled and taken out of the Flow Splitter Shaft (SFS), a receiving shaft, over this month. A total of 16 gantries that trailed behind Salus, were used to support Salus during its operation and excavation process. The disassembled components will be stored temporarily onsite, adjacent to the Front-of-Plant project site, and subsequently hauled away in combined truck loads to minimize the number of hauling trips.

For more information about the Gravity Pipeline, go here.

Front of Plant

At the Front of Plant, construction work within the Receiving Lift Station (RLS) shaft and Headworks Facility is progressing on schedule. With electrical, mechanical and architectural work ongoing at the Headworks Facility, Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW)’s contractor partner, Shea Parsons Joint Venture (SPJV), is continuing to install piping that will carry raw wastewater from the Surge and Flow Splitter Shaft (SFS) to the RLS and to the Headworks Facility. The piping includes the pump manifold and discharge piping made up of sections of stainless steel, high-density polyethylene (HDPL) and duction iron.

This month, the RLS pump manifold and related piping were brought onsite to be sprayed with a layer of protective coating, which will help ensure maximum adhesion to the pipe. The SFS, located just upstream of the RLS, will provide hydraulic protection for the RLS by providing a space in the conveyance system to dissipate energy, without damaging the manifold and RLS pumps during major flow spikes--which are expected to be very rare. The two-branch manifold provides connections for the six pumps within the RLS, three pumps to each of the two manifold branches. These pumps will then pump the raw wastewater into the Headworks Facility for preliminary treatment.

Pump Station Improvement Project

SVCW’s contractor partner, Shea Parsons Joint Venture (SPJV), has been making steady progress with the Pump Stations Improvement (PSI) project. At the Redwood City Pump Station, SPJV is continuing with the wet well excavation and backfilling the duct banks and electrical vault areas. The ongoing electrical work is in preparation for the new transformer and transformer pad that will be installed at Redwood City Pump Station.

Along Shoreway Road in Belmont and San Carlos, a new gravity pipeline will be installed via micro-tunneling construction, to carry raw wastewater from the existing Belmont Pump Station to the existing San Carlos Pump Station. This month, the micro-tunneling machine (micro TBM) will be mobilized onsite to start mining. For micro-tunneling to take place, jacking and receiving shafts have to be excavated and built at intermediate locations along Shoreway Road. A jacking shaft is used to launch the micro TBM, which is operated from the ground surface, to excavate the alignment (both horizontal and vertical) of the new conveyance pipe, which will be installed in the tunnel support. The receiving shaft, as its name describes, receives the micro TBM at the end of its underground tunneling activity. In the next few months, the micro TBM will be tunneling from two jacking and receiving shafts at intermediate locations along Shoreway Road--the first major step in the construction of the new gravity pipeline.

For more information about the Pump Station Improvement project, go here.

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