San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant: Frequently Asked Questions
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San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant: Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a Wastewater Treatment Plant? How does it work?

A Wastewater Treatment Plant consists of a series of physical and biological processes that treat residential, commercial, and industrial sewage so that it is suitable for discharge into the Bay or for reuse. Foster City/Estero Municipal Improvement District's ("EMID") sewage is treated by the City of San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

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2. The treatment plant is located in San Mateo. Does the facility serve both San Mateo and Foster City/EMID?

The City of San Mateo and Foster City/EMID jointly own the San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant through a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) and San Mateo operates the plant as the Lead Agency of the JPA. The facility treats wastewater for the citizens of the City of San Mateo and Foster City/EMID, in addition to surrounding communities, including Crystal Springs County Sanitation District, a portion of unincorporated San Mateo County, and the southern portion of Hillsborough. Foster City/EMID owns 25 percent of the WWTP.

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3. What is the Clean Water Program?

The Clean Water Program is a comprehensive plan to upgrade (1) the San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant jointly owned by the Cities of San Mateo (75%) and Foster City/EMID (25%), and (2) San Mateo's wastewater collection system, with advanced infrastructure that will provide reliable services for years to come.

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4. Why is Foster City required to improve the wastewater treatment plant now?

There are three drivers for improving the San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant:

  1. The current Wastewater Treatment Plant has many components that are over 75 years old. While it has been upgraded over the years, nearly half of the system is reaching the end of its useful life, and improvements to accommodate current and future operating requirements are needed.

  2. The regulatory environment that protects our community continues to change. We are responding to the current direction of our regulators (ie, Regional Water Quality Control Board "RWQCB") requiring specific corrective actions, while planning for future regulations related to wet weather capacity and the quality of our effluent water.

  3. Improvements to the Wastewater treatment plant have added environmental benefits including a cleaner San Francisco Bay, production of a new recycled water source to supplement precious water supplies, and alternative fuel sources for City vehicles.
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5. What are the alternatives to improve the facility? What if we did nothing?

The WWTP portion of the Clean Water Program includes the development and evaluation of alternative storage and treatment processes and ancillary facilities at the WWTP. This evaluation includes capital, operation and maintenance, and financing costs and an implementation time frame. The implemented alternative will be the one that satisfies the RWQCB orders and is judged to be the most cost effective considering all of the above evaluation criteria. Failure to comply with the RWQCB orders by mandated deadlines could result in large fines that ratepayers will ultimately be responsible for.

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6. How much will the improvements to the plant cost? What is Foster City’s/EMID’s share?

The District owns 25 percent of the WWTP. Based on the initial evaluation of WWTP upgrade alternatives, the District's share of the Clean Water Program is estimated to cost $116 Million. Foster City/EMID's portion of the program costs will be for relevant work related to the Wastewater Treatment Plant Master Plan improvements only. Foster City/EMID is not responsible for the costs of improvements for San Mateo's wastewater collection system.

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7. How will the project be funded?

Staff is exploring various options including debt financing for the District's share of the Clean Water Program through the establishment of a joint powers financing authority ("JPFA") with the City of San Mateo, grant funding, and low-interest loans to reduce costs to ratepayers.

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8. How long will the project take? Is there a project timeline?

The Clean Water Program is planned to be implemented within a maximum 20 year time frame. However, alternative treatment technologies currently being evaluated could reduce the project duration to 10 years and accelerate opportunities for Recycled Water and alternative fuel for fleet vehicles.

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9. How will the residents or businesses of Foster City be impacted during the construction process? Will it smell or be noisy?

Construction will occur entirely at the WWTP, located in San Mateo, and there will be no construction impact to the residences and businesses in Foster City.

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10. What is the City’s strategy to engage and educate the public about this project?

Foster City/EMID will be looking at a variety of public outreach methods including providing information on the City's website specific to the portion of the Clean Water Program pertaining to the WWTP improvements and distribution of information through other communication channels.

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City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200