Expansion project under revision

The lagoon at the city wastewater treatment plant is scheduled to be expanded to accommodate the wastewater the Southwest Cheese plant will produce once it begins production in October. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Clovis’ City Commission voted Wednesday to revise specifications for an expansion project at the city wastewater treatment plant.

The lagoon is being expanded to accommodate the wastewater Southwest Cheese plant will produce once it begins production in October. At full production, the plant is expected to produce 1.2 million gallons of wastewater byproduct daily, according to plant officials.

Harry Wang, Clovis’ public works director, said the city of Clovis has budgeted $2.2 million for the expansion project.

Wang said the lowest bid received was $3.4 million. Wang said the city needs to consider alternatives.

City Manager Joe Thomas said the options include changing the type of liner in the bottom of the lagoon and narrowing the concrete fiber walls used to hold the dirt berms in place from 4 to 3 inches. He said the savings would be about $500,000.

He said the city will also look into other financing options, including grants.

Thomas said expanding the lagoon is a “very complex project.” It involves relocating thousands of cubic feet of dirt and the installation of pipes and valves, which are all maintained electronically. “Construction is expected to take 270 days,” Thomas said.

Chase Gentry, executive director of Clovis Industrial Development Corp., said the lack of concrete and Hurricane Katrina have driven up the price of construction products that directly affected the bids. Gentry believes the overall project price can be lowered through engineering modifications, which are in the works. State and federal grants are also a possibility.

Although Southwest Cheese will begin production in October, and construction on the lagoon expansion has not begun, the city does have another wastewater storage option in place in the interim, according to Thomas.

Pipelines are installed to transfer overflow wastewater to a playa, which is a naturally formed flat-floored desert basin.

Thomas said the plant, which handles an average of between 2.6 and 2.9 million gallons of water per day, is operating at 60 percent capacity.

Thomas said the city is planning for a worse-case scenario once the cheese plant starts production.

“We use the playa more or less routinely (as an overflow option),” Thomas said, “and we’re looking for additional water application uses, such as the land at the cheese plant.”

The city agreed to expand its wastewater treatment plant to handle Southwest Cheese’s water by-product as an incentive to attract the $200 million plant that is expected to employ more than 200.

Thomas said Southwest Cheese has a wastewater pre-treatment plant on site so it will not require any further treatment once it reaches the city plant.

However, the high salt content of the cheese company wastewater will require it to be diluted with existing wastewater before being sold to an area landowner for irrigation purposes.

Thomas said the city sells the water to the landowner for a nominal fee.