Charles W. Fiveash Water Treatment Plan Upgraded or Replaced?
The City of Fort Lauderdale’s Charles W. Fiveash Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was constructed in 1954 and has been expanded four times currently having a 70 Million Gallons Per Day (MGD) design capacity and an average consumption demand of 47.1 MGD.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) water use permit allows an annual average daily withdraw of 52.55 MGD to satisfy an annual average daily demand (AADD) of raw water from the Biscayne Aquifer. This WTP plant is considered antiquated by today’s standards using lime softening treatment and aeration and flocculent/polymers to precipitate out undesirable suspended solids and expel/liberate out unwanted gases followed by disinfection with chlorine and ammonia (chloramines) to kill any bacteriological organisms.
This existing method of treatment could last for several more years; however, the advanced treatment technology has become more efficient and cost effective to produce more quantity and higher quality of treated water eliminating the green/yellow color currently prevalent during high demands. The future water treatment needs to deal with undesirable chemicals and organisms previously inexistent or unaware of their potential health consequences.
The City contracted Carollo Engineers in 2018 to prepare an engineering report to investigate and recommend whether or not to upgrade or replace the existing Fiveash WTP and conduct a pilot study as part of the report to analyze the quality of the raw well water being provided from the Prospect Wellfield. This analysis would assist in determining the most appropriate treatment processes to produce the highest quality potable (drinking) water at the most economical cost. Only a portion of the pilot study was completed by Carollo Engineers, who decided the findings were sufficient for their report in recommending the City should not upgrade the existing Fiveash WTP at the 23-acre site, but rather construct a new $350 to $430 Million WTP remotely located at the Prospect Wellfield at the northwest corner of the City’s Executive Airport property.
The Carollo Report was eventually submitted to the City in late 2019 and subsequently released to the public in early 2020 after being heavily redacted by the City. In reviewing the report, there were some discrepancies in their data and logic, specifically in not utilizing the existing 23-acre Fiveash WTP site, but relocating a new WTP on the remote Prospect Wellfield location that has the potential in contaminating the raw water source to construct a new WTP.
The logistics in utilizing the existing site would avoid high costs by not having to build new large diameter water transmission mains rather than utilizing the existing water transmission mains and avoid higher pumping costs the new remote site would need. The existing site would also avoid additional costs in having to build new plant structures, including another operations/administration building and high security wall required to encompass the new WTP at the proposed remote location.
In summation, it is highly suggested the City perform their “Due Diligence” by having another consulting engineering firm, preferably Reiss Engineering, who prepared the City’s Strategic Master Plan Report, to perform a “value engineering” report to complete the pilot study that Carollo Engineers did not finish in its entirety to either substantiate or recommend other modifications of treatment processes to ensure the best project for the City to undertake such a large costly investment.
The City should also be very cautious in considering a P3 privatization to finance/manage potentially jeopardizing the ultimate control of the Fiveash WTP Project costing much more than if the City manages the project as a design-build concept. The type of treatment process involving reverse osmosis will require a costly deep well injection system for the disposal of 15% of the deleterious water from said process depleting the overall Biscayne aquifer raw water.
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) might be a suspected carcinogen potentially causing genetic cell disorders and other negative effects to threaten our quality of life. The ion-exchange and/or granulated activated carbon or reverse osmosis treatments may be able to remove this PFAS contaminant threat along with other potential chemicals negatively impacting the WTP’s ability to produce safe drinking water.
Finally, the total project construction and operation costs should be thoroughly evaluated to determine if the chemical and energy costs to operate the proposed WTP Carollo Engineers Report recommendation is greater than other alternatives over the same expected life span. Residents can call the City’s Customer Service office at 954-828-8000 with questions and/or concerns regarding the final decision on the Charles W. Fiveash WTP upgrade or replacement project.
Please look for when the next Commission Meeting will be scheduled to discuss/vote on whether or not to perform their “Due Diligence” by requesting Reiss Engineering to perform a complete pilot water analysis study. This will allow for a thorough scrutinization of all options and formulate the optimum treatment process methods, in order to achieve the highest water quality and volume capacity in a reasonable, cost-effective way.
Ralph Zeltman, Board of Directors
Imperial Point Association, Inc.