San Francisco receives $699 million for Southeast Treatment Plant Biosolids Digester Facilities Project

By on August 1, 2018

The construction of San Francisco’s innovative Southeast Treatment Plant Biosolids Digester Facilities Project (STPBDFP) received a major boost on Monday with a $699 million loan to San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) will replace its outdated biosolids digester facilities with modern, efficient technology.

“Today’s nearly $700 million WIFIA water infrastructure loan reflects a core Administration priority: accelerating investment in America’s water infrastructure in a way that delivers a cleaner, healthier environment and supports a thriving economy,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This WIFIA loan will enable San Francisco to modernize its wastewater treatment facilities while creating valuable jobs in the community.”

The EPA loan for the biosolids facility is the largest loan issued under EPA’s WIFIA program to date. Construction of the STPBDFP will allow the transformation of wastewater solids into high-quality biosolids and biogas (a renewable energy source). The new digesters will feature advanced odor control, be located farther away from existing residences and will be built to be more resilient to earthquakes.

“Rebuilding our biosolids digester facilities is crucial to realizing our vision to transform San Francisco’s largest wastewater treatment plant into a modern resource recovery facility,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “With the federal government’s low-cost loan program, we can realize significant savings for our ratepayers and create high quality employment and contracting opportunities in parts of the City that need it most.”

The WIFIA program is a new federal loan and guarantee program at the EPA that targets accelerated investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. The program was established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014. More than $743 billion is needed for water infrastructure improvements according to EPA’s estimate of national drinking water and wastewater needs. The WIFIA program is an important part in fulfilling this need and is part of President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan, which calls for increasing the program’s funding authorization and expanding project eligibility.

In April 2018, EPA announced the availability of additional WIFIA funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, which could leverage over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects. The 2018 WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) highlights the importance of protecting public health including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and updating the nation’s aging infrastructure.

Project construction for San Francisco’s STPBDFP is anticipated to begin in late 2018 and be completed in 2025. The project is estimated to cost $1.43 billion and EPA’s WIFIA loan will help finance nearly half that amount—up to $699 million. According to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s estimates, EPA’s loan is expected to save the commission up to $398 million through the WIFIA program’s low interest rates.