Somerton Plant Wins Statewide Nod

2013-03-17 19:38:00

SOMERTON — This city’s wastewater treatment plant has been recognized as the most environmentally friendly public works project among any in a small Arizona community.

The wastewater plant, which in recent years has undergone upgrades to improve its function and energy efficiency, won the honor from the Arizona Chapter of the American Public Works Association for 2013. The APWA is a national association made up of administrators and operations of public works projects and systems across the nation.

Somerton officials are scheduled to travel to Tucson in August to receive the Public Works Project of the Year award in the Small Cities/Rural Communities Environment category.

The award automatically places the treatment plant in competition with public works projects around the United States for national honors.

Somerton City Administrator Bill Lee attributed the state award to the city’s efforts to increase the plant’s energy efficiency as part of an expansion project that began in 2007 at a cost of $5.8 million.

The plant has been equipped with more energy-efficiency motors as well as solar panels that reduced the city’s use of electricity generated from fossil fuels, Lee said. The city also is making use of recycled water in the treatment process at the plant, he added.

“A huge amount of work in energy efficiency has been done” at the plant, he said. “From the design phase on, we decided we would do everything possible to reduce the cost of energy and to improve the available (treatment) capacity.”

The plant previously had the capacity to treat 900,000 gallons of wastewater per minute, but the expansion increased the capacity to 1.8 millions — enough, say city officials, to handle the city’s projected needs for almost 20 years.

Mayor Martin Porchas said the award belongs to the city employees and officials and businesses whose efforts were key to making expansion and energy conservation a reality. The city had contracted with Pacific Advanced Civil Engineering and Kiewit to do the design and construction work in the expansion.

“I see it as a recognition of their work and commitment from the start of the project,” said Porchas. “I was a city councilman when we began talking about this, and one proposal that we had for a company was too conservative. They insisted on going to a higher capacity and looking for energy savings.

“The most important thing for us as a council is that those savings (in energy) allow us to maintain lower rates for service to residents,” Porchas added. “And up to now, we have been able to do that with this and other projects.”

In a letter to Lee announcing the award, Michael Sabatini, state awards chairman for the APWA, said the association has entered Somerton’s plant in competition for the association’s National Public Works Project of the Year.

“Now we move on to national competition,” said Lee. “It would be great to win that honor as well.”