[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald. But the Herald doesn't publish letters in its online editions - and many Benician's don't subscribe. We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution. - RS]
On the Recycled Water ProjectBy Steve Young
October 28, 2016
I would like to thank Mr. Gartrell for his letter and calling attention to this proposal.
Currently, Valero pays approximately $1 million per year for roughly half of the water used in the City. This is raw, untreated water that is used in their cooling towers and refinery process. The rest of the City customers pay around $6 million for the other half of the treated, potable water. Clearly the treated water is of greater value than untreated water, but one can wonder if it is 6 times more valuable?
The proposed wastewater conversion project, which Valero has described as “drought insurance”, is estimated to cost approximately $25 million. This could presumably be financed by a loan from the State, where the payments (according to City staff) would be approximately $1.5 million per year. Both the City and Valero agree that the technology is achievable, and the main question remaining is who should pay the premiums for this drought insurance (i.e. loan payments).
Since the conversion project would result in wastewater being treated by the City to Valero’s specifications, and would be pumped in new lines from the treatment plant directly to Valero for their exclusive use, it is not unreasonable (or illegal) to expect them to pay the costs of that project. I believe that this is in compliance with Prop. 218.
Clearly, there would be benefits to the City from this project as well, since it would free up more water for the community to accommodate both current residents and any future growth the City may choose to embark upon. And the development of the technology of wastewater conversion could ultimately benefit the City if extended to irrigation purposes for parks, school fields and other public uses-although to do so would require some expensive re-plumbing to direct that reclaimed water for those purposes.
The cost of those uses, of course, would be public costs.
The negotiation of the terms of this project would have to be approved by the new City Council and Valero’s corporate offices in San Antonio, TX.
I remain optimistic that this project could be significant in terms of serving the long term water needs of both Valero and the City.