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The City and County of San Francisco's Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant (SEP) (37 m3/S, 85 mgd) Digesters have reached the limit of their useful life. The floating covers of the digesters are problematic; they pose a high potential for digester gas release, causing odor problems that reach beyond the boundary of the treatment plant bothering the neighborhood. The concrete has deteriorated extensively and needs seismic upgrade. Cleaning of the digesters is expensive and produces odor yet their functionality is much reduced if not properly and regularly cleaned.

The City conducted a facility planning study and egg-shaped digesters were identified as the preferred upgrade alternative. Given the scale and location of the proposed facility, the upgrade project is a complicated matter and could not just be approached from an engineering and construction management perspective. There were three main, non-engineering issues that were faced in order to move the project past the planning phase. These three issues were: (1) the concerns and acceptance of the adjacent Bayview-Hunters Point Community; (2) the ability to convince the general public of the need for new and costly wastewater facilities; and (3) the appropriateness of the location and the technology of solids handling for the Bayside of San Francisco.

Community Outreach

Eighty percent of the dry weather sewage generated in San Francisco flows to the Southeast Water Pollution Control Plan for treatment. This centralized approach to collection and treatment is accepted in the industry as a cost-effective and practical approach. However, the Bayview-Hunters Point Community felt that they were unfairly burdened by the wastewater plant and associated nuisances. The success of the project required comprehensive understanding of, and appreciation for, community concerns. In order to promote community involvement in the early stage of project development, a Neighborhood Advisory Group was organized composed of residents and business owners near the existing digesters location to review project alternatives. Their involvement in the site selection and architectural treatment of the egg-shaped digesters and odor control issues resulted in positive decision making that moved the project forward.

Location of Digesters and Appropriateness of the Technology

The sentiment was still strong in the community to push for moving the entire treatment plant away. Along with concerns over several other SEP-related issues, community leaders and organizations were very focused on the digester project and raised questions regarding technology and the equity of the centralized approach to waste collection and treatment. In response the City leaders became involved in public forums and decision-making process. As a result, the project team considered additional project location alternatives.

In order to address the community concerns, new project sites were proposed that were further away from the residential neighborhood. These site locations are under review in the EIR process. Selection of one of these locations will result in moving the entire solids handling facilities including thickening, digestion, digester gas handling, dewatering, and cake storage and loadout to a more industrial side of the existing SEP boundary.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2001

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