Long Range Facilities Plan

City of Palo Alto, 
California

Long Range Facilities Plan

Project Highlights: 
  • Biosolids alternatives evaluation to consider continuation of incineration versus anaerobic digestion.
  • Evaluation of aging facilities through a condition assessment and operations review.
  • Strategy for meeting potential future regulatory requirements for San Francisco Bay discharge and increasing need for high-quality recycled water.
  • Evaluation of opportunities to meet Palo Alto’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and satisfy the "green" ethics of the community.
  • Stakeholder process to solicit input and provide review regarding environmental and social impacts.
Palo Alto RWQCP aerial
The RWQCP is on a tight sight bounded by a landfill to the south, baylands to the east, an airport to the north, and commercial property to the west. These land restrictions make site planning a challenge.

Carollo is developing a Long Range Facilities Plan for the City of Palo Alto to lay out the needed infrastructure at the Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP) for the next 50 years. Palo Alto has never conducted a facility-wide planning effort and this plan is needed to address several key issues:

  • Long-term viable biosolids treatment and disposal.
  • Aging infrastructure.
  • Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements.
  • A “green” community ethic.
  • A constrained plant site.

Palo Alto is currently one of two facilities with sludge incineration in California, and the incinerators are over 40 years old. Increasingly stringent air permits and recent proposed regulations by EPA will make incineration of sewage sludge more difficult in the future, especially with older technology. Therefore, evaluation of a wide variety of biosolids treatment/management is a focal point of this Long Range Facilities Plan. Moving from incineration to other alternatives, such as anaerobic digesters, is complicated by the fact that the RWQCP is a tight site with little room for large new processes without relocating or abandoning existing buildings/processes. The sight is bounded by a landfill to the south, baylands to the east, an airport to the north, and commercial property to the west.

The Long Range Facilities Plan develops liquid and biosolids treatment scenarios to meet future flows as well as existing and future regulatory requirements over the next 50 years. Each scenario considers plant layout, operational issues, and costs. In addition to these conventional evaluation criteria, Palo Alto and its stakeholders want the plan to reflect the “green” ethics of the community and therefore have added criteria to consider environmental and social impacts. Coordination with stakeholders was accomplished through public workshops scheduled throughout the project.