No. 2 is No. 1 priority in plant expansion

By Moses Leos III

A $16 million project to expand the Buda wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) is beginning to take shape. 

The first steps in the expansion began June 2, as the Buda City Council tabbed AECOM as the project’s design firm by a unanimous vote.

Buda’s current wastewater treatment plant, operated by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA), reached 75 percent capacity, or 1.125 million gallons per day (MGD), between January and March 2014. The city plant maintained that capacity level through the spring. 

TCEQ rules say when a plant that is at 75 percent capacity for three consecutive months, a city must begin “engineering and financial planning” to retrofit the plant. 

But construction would not begin until the city reaches 90 percent capacity, or 1.35 MGD. 

AECOM, which designed the WWTP first two phases, will now design the third phase. The same firm assisted in designing the last expansion in 2012, which took the plant from .6 MGD to 1.5 MGD capacity. 

The expansion will bring the WWTP to a 3.0 MGD capacity.

“They have the historical knowledge of the last expansion that was done,” city engineer Stanley Fees said of AECOM. “There is no learning curve to get started.”  

The design firm will conduct a six-month preliminary engineering study. 

According to Fees, the city plans to “duplicate the facility” to meet the city’s needs. 

“If [AECOM] can figure out some ways to make things more efficient, then we will do that,” Fees said. 

They will also begin designing an additional effluent force main, which will meet the new 3.0 MGD demand. The city is expected to construct the force main.  

AECOM will concurrently run a five-month re-rating study on the WWTP, testing the plant’s ability to expand without major construction. It would increase capacity from 1.5 MGD to 1.7 MGD, delaying the start of the expansion.  

The engineering study, along with approval of final design plans and the awarding of a construction bid are projected to take 19 months. Construction would then take 24 months, timelines Fees called “normal” for major wastewater expansion projects. 

Project costs would be paid by certificates of obligation, which would come out of the wastewater utility fund. The study is projected to cost $2.01 million, with construction costing $14.7 million. 

According to Fees, the 3.0 build out is projected to service the city for a 12-year period. 

In the meantime, the city must continue planning for the future. That includes continuing discussions with the Sunfield Municipal Utility District (MUD) regarding its WWTP, also owned by GBRA. 

As part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with GBRA and Buda, the discussions are to see if the city could divert it’s effluent to Sunfield. 

Sunfield has a capacity of .25 MGD; Buda sought to build capacity to 6.0 MGD by 2040. 

However, cost and ownership issues arose out of the discussions. According to Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams, discussions are at a standstill. 

“We’ll try to keep the conversation going (with Sunfield),” Williams said. “We are interested in making something work.”

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