Bids for brine ponds far exceed estimate
Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD) Board rejected all bids for construction of the San Vicente Wastewater Reclamation plant brine ponds after the lowest bid came in at $600,000 more than an engineer’s estimate.
Twelve construction bids were received, ranging from $1.98 million to $2.75 million. With the construction estimated to cost $1.38 million, the lowest bid represented a 43.5 percent increase.
According to RMWD Engineer Tim Stanton, four major elements impacted the high bids. Of the 19 items listed in the bid, those four items amounted to almost $560,000. One of the items was the PVC liner for the brine ponds. The liner was estimated to cost approximately $188,000 but bid at $430,000.
Recommending that the board reject all bids, Stanton presented three alternative projects for district directors to consider at another meeting, with one option to continue to haul brine indefinitely.
Currently the brine from the San Vicente plant is hauled by trucks daily to the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Facility at a cost of approximately $380,000 per year. Continuing to do so poses no health or safety issue at San Vicente, said RMWD Chief Financial Officer David Barnum. The district, he said, is “trying to find the best, most economical issue at San Vicente.”
Constructing brine evaporation ponds would allow for the removal of salts from treated wastewater. The brine would then dry out and evaporate, eliminating the need to haul it to Point Loma.
Another proposed alternative was to delete the PVC liner and, along with that, the associated excavation and leak detection system. Instead, Stanton said, they could do a concrete liner.
“We went back and checked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to make sure that might be all right with them as an alternative and they said it would be,” said Stanton.
By doing so, however, there would be less guarantee that there won’t be a leak into the groundwater, Stanton said. If a leak was detected, Stanton said that cleanup would be required.
Board President Jim Robinson said he thinks they definitely needed to reject the bids because they were way beyond the district’s estimate.
“We need to do something before we go back to bid,” he said.
The board agreed to reject the bids, evaluate options and rebid at a later date. Directors Red Hager and Bryan Wadlington will serve on an ad hoc committee to look into alternatives for the project.
Saying that the district should continue to haul the brine for a while, director George Boggs said, “We’ve got an economy where financing is difficult at best. Let the economy maybe straighten out a little bit.”
Funding for the brine pond project has been an issue discussed by the board. One source of funding could come from the sale of a house the district owns at 15562 Vicente Meadows Drive. The district purchased the property in January 2009 to use some of the land for the construction of the brine ponds.
Able to do a lot split, the district now has the house, which is on two acres, listed on the market for $465,000. The district had to first offer the house to other public entities, and no agency expressed interest.
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