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Conversion plan aimed at keeping garbage rates down over the long haul
Solid waste worker Eli Cerna climbs out of one of the citys garbage collection trucks that the state is mandating be converted to clean burning fuel. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Forward thinking — and retaining city ownership of utilities — has given Manteca some of the lowest municipal utility rates in the region.

It’s been more than six years since the last water and sewer rate hikes. And when it comes to solid waste, it’s been 10 years and counting. 

Manteca resisted the temptation 12 years ago to go with a private trash contractor that was serving nearby cities. As a result, not only does Manteca have the lowest garbage rates in the region but they have been able to keep them low despite disposal costs going up 24 percent and fuel costs jumping 300 percent over the past 10 years.

When Manteca was forced by the state to change how it was treating wastewater, the council resisted pressure to privatize the operations as well by opting to go beyond the new minimum standards and make sure there was the ability to easily expand the plant when needed in the least expensive manner.

Now — as Deputy Public Works Director-Utility Services John Clymo points out — no other city in the region has a wastewater treatment plant as advanced as Manteca’s.

Then there is the city’s water system. The decision to participate in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s surface water treatment plant has positioned the city better than many other municipalities in dealing with the current drought. It also has allowed the city to keep down the cost of well water as blending is able to eliminate the need for expensive arsenic mini treatment plants on a number of wells that require spending $500,000 per well every two years to replace filters.

Rates were put in place for water and sewer not just to build new facilities but provide for ongoing major costs such as replacing aging pipelines. Because Manteca had the money in hand from frugal management and putting adequate rates in place over 10 years ago, the city was able to undertake a number of major pipeline and system improvements during the recession to take full advantage of lower construction costs. In short, Manteca got more bang for ratepayers’ bucks while other cities were struggling to simply keep sewer and water operations financially afloat.

Now the city is proposing to invest upfront in modifications to the wastewater treatment plant as well as how the city collects and disposes of garbage in a bid to meet new state mandates while at the same time putting in place a system that they can control costs so that in the long run Manteca residents and businesses will continue to enjoy the lowest rates possible.

• • •

New state mandates for garbage disposal

Manteca and other jurisdictions are facing a series of state mandates for waste disposal and operation of municipal equipment.

• 50 percent of all garbage must be diverted from landfills.

• 75 percent of all commercial waste must be recycled.

• green waste such as lawn clippings will no longer be counted as being diverted even though it is being recycled into compost.

• food waste and organic material eventually will be prohibited from being buried in landfills. By April 1, 2016 and account Manteca serves that produce 8 or more cubic yards of organic waste a week must be recycled. By Jan. 1, 2017 that drops down to any concern producing more than 4 cubic yards of waste a week. Then on Jan. 1, 2019 the new threshold will be 2 cubic yards per week.

• biosolids at the wastewater treatment plant can no longer be put in landfills.

• the city’s biogas boilers at the wastewater treatment plant do not meet new standards.

• biogas flare burning off methane gas at the treatment plant no longer meets air quality standards.

• the city’s fleet of garbage trucks has to be converted to clean burning fuels by 2030 at $350,000 per truck.

An audit conducted by dumping the contents of Toters and dumpsters out on large canvases and shifting through it, shows that 40 percent of Manteca’s 48,000 tons of garbage that is collected and buried at the landfill on Austin Road is food waste.

“Apparently we eat a lot of pizza in Manteca,” Clymo said after noting the average is 30 percent statewide for food waste in the overall amount of garbage collected.

• • •

Hernandez was early champion of green tech

Faced with two objectives — meeting new mandates and keeping ratepayer costs low in the long haul — the city last year started cobbling together an economic conservation program enlisted green technology.

It piggybacked on Councilman Vince Hernandez’ mantra that going green can save greenbacks. For years, Hernandez hammered away at the need to consider any green initiatives not first and foremost to help the environment but when they are done right they can save ratepayers money.

Part of that of that green tech is moving forward this year with a one megawatt solar farm at the wastewater treatment plant to reduce the $1.1 million power bill needed to fuel the plant’s operations each year. It will generate 33 percent of the power needs

The other is to implement a way to make equipment the state is mandating at the treatment plant as well as expensive diversion mandates to ultimately keep costs down for ratepayers. At the same time they re-examined how they are collecting and disposing of garbage.

The result is a green tech solution that is designed to bring Manteca into compliance with current standards and ones expected from the state as well as keep ratepayer rates low in the long run.

• • •

Year-to-year savings will pile up for city’s solid waste collection

The plan calls for switching from the privately run landfill on Austin Road east of Stockton Metro Airport to the Lovelace Transfer Station operated by the county just a mile north of Manteca’s city limits.

The reduction in miles traveled alone will allow the city to

• reduce fleet mileage for waste trucks by 50 percent,

• increase disposal site trips by one a day per driver.

• reduce fuel costs by 55 percent or $225,000 annually.

• reduce tire costs by 60 percent or $72,000 annually,

• reduce water use by 60 percent since Lovelace is paved

• reduce maintenance costs by $160,000 (labor excluded) or by 55 percent annually.

• reduce the truck fleet by 30 percent to avoid spending $2.25 million on new trucks as more routes can be done by each truck each day.

• reduce the current need to hire more personnel to keep up with growth.

• eliminate weather and traffic delays.

Most of the fuel, maintenance, wear and tear and water savings come from not having to shift into lower gear to drive refuse trucks on dirt paths that are often muddy and uphill to tip garbage into the landfill on Austin Road.

Since the city has to replace digesters at the treatment plant anyway to meet new state standards, they would be used to create gas that can power the new clean burning trucks the city needs to buy to meet new state mandates.

Since Manteca is the only wastewater treatment plant in the area equipped for such gas production, it can broker a deal to take the city’s recyclables that now currently have a market value of zero and exchange it for Tracy’s organic food waste. That would save Manteca the expense of having to sort and recycle its own recyclables if the market for such items continues not to be profitable for a contractor to do the work as is currently happening.

The food waste would be collected at Lovelace, ground  into a pulp, and transport it to the Manteca wastewater treatment plant where it would be fed into the digesters to produce clean burning gas to fuel garbage trucks.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email