Two companies are spending an estimated $1 million each on competitive proposals to win the right to design and construct Spokane Countys planned $115 million waste-water treatment plant, then operate the facility under a contract that could be worth $80 million to $100 million over 20 years.
The companies, Denver-based CH2M Hill Inc. and Houston-based Veolia Water North America, are to submit final proposals for the project in March, says David Moss, project manager with the countys public works department.
Its a high-stakes game being played by two vendors with deep experience in waste-water treatment, and the design-build-operate package offers big rewards for a provider thats willing to oversee every aspect of the project, including its long-term compliance with strict environmental rules, those involved say.
Its one thing to design and build a project, says Sean Haghighi, Veolia Waters vice president of business development here. Its another to operate it and guarantee its compliance.
Veolia Water and CH2M Hill were the only two companies that responded to the countys request last year for qualifications to design, build, and run the proposed facility.
They are very well-qualified companies, so we short-listed them both, Moss says.
Once the formal proposals are submitted, the county will conduct internal reviews and visit projects the two companies have done elsewhere, he says. The Washington state Department of Ecology also will review the technical aspects of the proposals to see if they will meet environmental regulations.
Both companies will put a considerable amount of their own resources into their proposals, Moss says.
For a project like this, each will likely spend about $1 million, he says.
The winning proposal is expected to be selected in December, and construction is planned to begin in 2009 and to be completed in 2012.
Both companies are experienced in constructing and operating municipal water and waste-water systems.
The water business is the backbone of CH2M Hill, and this is one of the larger types of work we do, says Rick Smith, project manager here for CH2M Hill.
In addition to the large scope of the project, the states new, stricter water-quality standards will be technically challenging to meet, Smith says.
Haghighi, too, says the water-quality standards the new plant will be required to meet will be especially stringent.
The county is in uncharted waters, he says. The (required water-quality) levels have never been accomplished day in and day out.
Moss says the initial discharge limits when the plant comes online will be among the most stringent in the world. For instance, the limit for phosphorus discharges into the Spokane River will be 50 parts per billion in the summer months, about a tenth of what is currently allowed.
While the county will own the facility and hold the permits under which it will operate, the county doesnt have the expertise to run such a sophisticated plant, Moss says. He says it will be up to the contractor to employ technologies to meet the standards.
Weve made constraints on how good it has to be, but were not fully prescriptive on how to get there, he says.
Haghighi says he cant comment on the approach Veolia Water would use to meet the standards, but the guarantees and commitments that would be included in the contract require us to be 100 percent confident in our ability to meet the standards.
Smith says a growing number of new municipal water and sewer projects are being operated through public-private partnerships, although Spokane Countys project would be the first such partnership for a wastewater-treatment plant in this region.
CH2M Hill is in such a partnership with Seattle Public Utilities in that agencys Cedar Water Treatment Facility, which has a treatment capacity of 185 million gallons a day. Also, in a project Smith says is comparable to the planned Spokane plant, CH2M Hill designed and built an 8.5-million-gallon-per-day expansion to the Traverse City, Mich., waste-water treatment plant, which the engineering firm operates. Both projects went online in 2004.
CH2M Hill has had a presence here for about 30 years, Smith says.
Every place is slightly different, he says. We know a lot about the issues facing the Spokane River.
Haghighi says Veolia water has had a presence here for about six years and recently was awarded a consulting contract by the Hayden (Idaho) Regional Sewer Board.
Haghighi says Veolia Water operates facilities for more than a dozen municipalities in the Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions, including waste-water facilities in Vancouver, Wash., and Great Falls, Mont., which Haghighi asserts are among the oldest public-private partnerships in the country. Vancouvers facility has a treatment capacity of 44 million gallons a day, and Great Falls facility has a capacity of 20 million gallons a day.
Both companies are planning open houses at which they will seek local subcontractors interested in the project here.
CH2M Hills open house is planned for today, Jan. 10.
If we are awarded the contract, we would have to find subcontractors to help us with the work, Smith says. In a project in which $100 million is spent, it takes a lot of entities. The more we can keep in Spokane the better.
Amber Williams, CH2M Hills supplier diversity and small-business program specialist, says the company is seeking interest in the project from minority and women-owned businesses. She says the target goal, depending on the type of work, is to award at least 4 percent to 10 percent of the subcontract work to women- and minority-owned businesses.
Veolia Water plans to hold its vendor open house on Jan. 24, Haghighi says.
Were inviting all local qualified contractors, minority- and women-owned businesses, and suppliers, he says. We hope to work with as many local participants as possible.
With a capacity of 8 million gallons a day, the countys new plant will be about a fifth the size of the city of Spokanes waste-water treatment plant located in the northwest part of the city along the Spokane River, the countys Moss says. The countys plant will be located at the 20-acre former stockyards site near Freya Street and Trent Avenue just inside the eastern city limits of Spokane. The county bought the property in 2004 and last year received a conditional-use permit from the city to build a waste-water treatment facility there.
The citys waste-water treatment capacity is 44 million gallons per day. Of that capacity, the county currently is guaranteed a 10-million-gallon-per-day share, for which it pays nearly $5 million to the city annually.
Moss says the county will continue to send waste water to the citys plant after its own plant is completed, but the new plant will allow the county to continue to hook up additional sewer customers for an estimated 20 years before more capacity is needed.
The county project will be funded in part through a $75 million loan from the Washington state Department of Ecology. The rest will be funded through general obligation bonds.
The loans and bonds will be repaid over 20 years by users of the plant, Moss says. Beginning this month, the county increased monthly residential sewer bills to $33.46 from $27.68, in part due to the anticipated costs of the new facility.
Contact Mike McLean at (509) 344-1266 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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