WRF Costs Increase Again

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 13, 2023

Costs for Morro Bay’s Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) Project continue to climb with thousands recently added to contracts for the treatment plant builder, an increase to the cultural/archaeological resources monitoring, and for the company installing the conveyance system.

Anvil Builders is the San Francisco company installing the pipes and building new lift stations to convey the raw sewage from the old treatment plant on Atascadero Road to the new plant above the end of South Bay Boulevard. These newest changes added $646,000 to Anvil’s contract raising it to a new “not-to-exceed” amount of $34.84 million. The original contract was for just over $31 million.

Amendment No. 8 in the contract with Filanc/Black & Veatch (FBV) to build the treatment plant rose another $957,000, bringing the treatment plant portion of the project up to $78.01 million. The original bid was for $69 million.

And the contract with Cogstone Resource Management to monitor the lift station and pipe-laying work increased over $97,000 bringing Cogstone’s contract up to $1.49 million.

With Anvil, the new costs cover a number of hiccups the company incurred while install the conveyance system, including $130,000 to relocate the City’s reverse osmosis line from the old desal plant on Atascadero Road. 

It also includes $200,000 for work done on the RO plant’s brine discharge line; and various other added work ranging from a low of $1,300 to $82,000.

With FBV, the biggest cost hike was for $750,000 to “Defer SEED PLANT Milestone and WRF commission,” according to the staff report. The plant was slated to start accepting sewage last Fall, but delays with the conveyance system and an activated sludge failure when the plant first took on sewage, pushed that back.

Despite the newest cost overruns, ratepayers still won’t get hit with increased fees. “Acceptance of all three contract amendments,” a staff report said, “would not result in an increase in the overall WRF Project baseline budget of $159.84 million, as adopted in the FY 2022-23 City Budget, nor require any increase for ratepayers. However, the Conveyance Facilities budget and budget for cultural resource monitoring will be exceeded and $230,029 will need to be allocated to those line items from the $923,420 program contingency budget.”

So the latest price hikes mean the conveyance system’s budget is now $142,000 in the red and Cogstone’s monitoring budget is $87,000 over. The WRF’s overall contingency budget sat at $923,000. Subtract the $230,000 in Anvil and Cogstone’s contracts and there is just $693,000 left over.

As for what happened to cause the changes, the City report said Anvil had to move the 12-inch RO line in order to create separation from the new sewer pipes; and the company also replaced at the City’s behest a collapsed storm drain on Atascadero Road. 

The City is also giving Anvil $34,120 for work to repair a broken water main that occurred back in June that the City said had failed while Anvil was digging through the area behind Lila Keiser Park. 

Also of note, the City’s first injection well, designed to pump treated effluent into the ground in the Morro Creek Aquifer, has been completed and is in testing mode.

And in a recent Public Works Advisory Board (PWAB) meeting, the Public Works Department’s list of projects includes $9.1 million for “Wastewater Treatment Plant Decommissioning,” which refers to the eventual tearing down of the old Atascadero Road sewer plant.

Under “Justifications” the report said, “ The Coastal Development Permit for the Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) Program requires removal and restoration (decommissioning) of the existing Wastewater Treatment Plant site to a safe and level configuration that roughly matches the surrounding areas. Funding for planning and project initiation is crucial to be in compliance with WRF permits.”

The Cayucos Sanitary District is a co-owner of that old sewer plant, so any costs associated with tearing it down will have to go through that agency. Negotiations between the agencies is reportedly underway however, nothing has yet to be made public on the terms or the plans for decommissioning and potential redevelopment of the site, which is just a short distance from Morro Strand State Beach.

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