A greener kind of California dreaming

A state-of-the-art water recycling facility in Santa Paula is setting the industry bar in how to reduce energy costs and cut the environmental footprint.

Santa Paula is 65 miles north-west of Los Angeles and in the rich agricultural Santa Clara River Valley. Surrounded by rolling hills, rugged mountain peaks, and orange, lemon and avocado groves, Santa Paula is sometimes called the Citrus Capital of the World.

Its wastewater treatment facility was constructed in 1939 and today serves about 30,000 residents. Hindered by failing infrastructure and dated technology, the facility was in violation of several discharge requirements issued by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), and had received more than 3,000 violations and fines in excess of US$8M. To comply with the increasingly stringent regulations, the city made several plant modifications but ultimately failed to achieve the operating requirements.

A consent judgment with the state issued in 2007 allowed the city to apply the fines toward a new wastewater treatment plant if the facility was completed and in compliant operation by December 15, 2010. Santa Paula opted to pursue a design-build-operate-finance strategy to construct a new state-of-the-art water recycling facility designed to meet the city’s current and future wastewater treatment needs.

The project was awarded to Santa Paula Water (SPW), a partnership of PERC Water and Alinda Capital, in May 2008. The new facility is designed for 7.2 MGD peak day flow (10.4 MGD peak hour) and 3.4 MGD average day flow capacity with the ability to expand to 4.2MGD. The system was completed and in full operation in May 2010, seven months ahead of the December deadline.

After an assessment of the facility needs, SPW chose MBR technology to provide advanced treatment process, increase plant capacity and reuse water for irrigation.

MBR systems increasingly are used in locations where water resources are scarce, reusable quality effluent is desirable, space availability is limited, and/or stringent discharge standards are in effect. These locations may include small communities, housing developments, commercial developments, resorts and golf courses. The MBR is also employed for industrial applications to recycle process water, reducing wastewater disposal costs and reducing water footprints.

The Santa Paula MBR facility has a compact design, with fully redundant headworks, conservative and efficient aeration design, biological foam spray system, hollow fibre membranes with incorporated aeration. Effluent from the system will discharge into evaporation/percolation ponds, and a portion of the water will eventually be used for irrigation.

The new water recycling facility is designed to produce an effluent that meets or exceeds all current environmental wastewater quality standards mandated by the US EPA and the RWQCB. The MBR is designed to produce a finished effluent with biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids concentrations of less than 5mg/l, total nitrogen less than 8mg/l and turbidity less than 0.2 Nephelometric Turbidity Units.

An MBR is a biological process that combines secondary and tertiary treatment using a membrane filtration process. Because membranes are used to provide the necessary solids-liquid separation, MBR effluent is consistently high quality with low turbidity, low bacterial counts, and low TSS and NTU. The filtrate quality, in many instances, is suitable for feeding directly into a reverse osmosis (RO) process, if required in the future.

An additional advantage of an MBR system is its compact footprint. This is achieved by replacing the secondary clarification process with membrane separation and by operating the biological process with higher mixed liquor suspended solids than conventional activated sludge systems. Despite its advantages, using membranes for solids-liquid separation requires careful assessment of several critical design elements.

PERC Water turned to Koch Membrane Systems’ (KMS) PURON membrane modules as a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution to meet the RWQCB’s stringent discharge requirements. PURON membrane modules produce high-quality effluent that meets stringent water reuse and recycling requirements while significantly reducing the treatment system footprint, installation cost, and manpower commitment, all key requirements for the Santa Paula site.

Juergen Nick, PERC Water’s vice-president of design and engineering, said: “The water recycling technology in the Santa Paula Facility sets the industry bar to help control and minimise operational energy costs within the smallest environmental footprint possible. As membrane scouring and biological aeration account for nearly half of the power consumption, PERC Water employed an energy-efficient air production and usage system – Koch Membrane Systems’ PURON membranes. In total, 24 PSH-1500 modules were installed, making it one of the largest MBR installations in North America.”

PURON modules are energy-efficient, with the lowest energy demand of all commercially available MBR modules. The system is easy to operate, with features that are designed to provide significantly lower lifecycle costs, including a single header design that provides better solids management in the module, braided fibres to reduce the risk of fibre breakage, and highly effective air scouring that virtually eliminates sludging. An important advantage of the patented PURON module is the use of a single header with reinforced hollow fibres that are fixed only at the bottom. The sealed upper end of the fibre is allowed to float freely. The free floating tip design eliminates the build-up of hair and fibrous materials that typically clog the upper ends of membrane fibres in MBR module designs that employ both top and bottom headers.

Solids and particulates are retained by the membrane and remain on the outside, while permeate is drawn through the membrane to the inside of the fibres.

The Santa Paula facility includes the larger 1,500m2 PURON module, which simplifies design, operation and retrofit of large-scale MBR plants. The improved submerged membrane module features greater packing density, lower energy costs for aeration, and simplified installation while providing even greater compatibility with other commercially available systems.

The 1,500m2 module is particularly significant because it was specifically designed for large scale MBR projects. Features such as an optimised permeate extraction manifold and air supply lines reduce the number of piping connections during installation. The new product line enables users to retrofit the advanced PURON technology into systems with comparably sized modules.

PERC Water’s design uses five acres less land than would be required by a conventional wastewater treatment facility. In its first few months of operation, the power consumption of the plant was only 4.4kWh/1,000 gallons treated. The consumption is based on power used by all processes in the facility including digestion, building power, MBR Process, UV System, RO System. As flows increase, it is expected that the power consumption per thousand gallons will further decrease.

With the equipment selected for this facility, Santa Paula’s MBR promises to be one of the most energy-efficient MBR installations in the world.


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