Atascadero sewage plant to get upgrade

Atascadero is in the beginning stages of designing a screening facility to keep foreign material such as trash and discarded belongings out of its wastewater treatment plant.

Construction bids for the estimated $677,000 project could go out as soon as May, Public Works Director Russ Thompson said, followed by the start of construction in July or August.

The upgrade, likely to take three to four months, is designed to prevent nonorganic materials from entering the treatment process.

“It will remove fibers and inert materials that make it through the lift station pumps that tend to bind up and clog the motors,” Thompson said. Such materials largely impact aerator equipment critical for oxygenating the wastewater.

He also foresees the project improving worker safety.

When rags, mops and other stringy materials get wrapped around the seven aerators’ large propellers, “it takes two workers to physically remove the material using utility razor knives to cut through the 50-pound ball of yarn and fiber,” Thompson said, noting that random household items often find their way to the sewer. One problem, he said, is needles and other sharp objects get caught up in those masses.

“You can see the danger there,” he said.

The city spends approximately $50,000 to $60,000 per year fixing that equipment, he said. The upgrade should save the city about $35,000 to $45,000 annually and improve machine function, he added.

Of the city’s roughly 29,000 people, the sewer services approximately 14,000 residents and most businesses, according to city documents. On-site septic systems are used by the other half.

The City Council on Dec. 14 awarded a $99,000 contract to San Luis Obispo-based AECOM to prepare the engineering documentation to design the screening facility.

Three bids were received, and AECOM was ranked highest by the bid’s selection criteria.