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Going green to save green
Manteca pursues cleaner technology to cut costs
Cutting edge technology for water treatment provides the cleanest surface water possible while keeping a lid on the costs. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Vince Hernandez is a hybrid man.

The  lead psychologist for the San Joaquin County Office of Education drives a Toyota Prius.

But more importantly he has taken what best can be called a “hybrid” approach to green technology in his role as a Manteca City Council member for the past 10 years. That approach isn’t one of just being green for the sake of being green. Rather it is pursuing green when it can save green. Hernandez has championed having municipal staff explore green technology and to implement it wherever it can save Manteca taxpayers or ratepayers money.

That attitude dovetails nicely into a culture that has been prevalent in the Manteca Public Works Department for the better part of two decades. It has helped Manteca set the standard for municipal efficiencies when it comes to sewer and water service as well as street lights and garbage collection. The end result has been plummeting energy consumption plus no monthly rate increases spanning four years for water and sewer service and five years for municipal garbage collection.

• Manteca was among the first municipalities to slash their street light costs by over 50 percent while drastically reducing the time it took for replacing burned out light fixtures by buying out the PG&E system. The city is now converting to induction street lights. They will ultimately save the city $186,000 a year in power costs, last longer than the lights they’re replacing, and provide more light that is of a more natural color.

• Manteca this month will be the first jurisdiction west of the Rockies to run garbage trucks with Parker RunWise Advanced Series Hybrid Drive. The RunWise system - used on Miami garbage trucks - has delivered fuel savings ranging between 40 and 50 percent over a conventional diesel garbage truck. They also operate substantially quieter. If all 15 of the garbage trucks that run on Manteca’s streets on any given day were using the technology the city could save $1.5 million or more in fuel costs over 10 years.

• Manteca in 2011 was the first city on the West Coast to roll out a garbage truck with a hydraulic launch assist system that is on target to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent over basic diesel trucks.  It was so cutting edge that the state Air Resources Board was still piecing together information on the truck when it went into service.

Mayor Willie Weatherford noted the municipal staff’s fixation on green in terms of the environmental and cost savings has positioned the city to enjoy lower municipal overhead in the coming years. The philosophy also is also stretching the capacity of the sewer and water systems meaning a longer time before costly expansions need to take place.

The city’s water system, for example, is a hybrid of surface and well water. But unlike such combo systems in Lathrop or Tracy, Manteca designed the system to use surface water only during the traditional heavy use months from March to October. It allowed the city to reduce the upfront investment needed in the Nick DeGroot South County Surface Water Treatment plant to $42 million. That means use of the more expensive surface water is reduced significantly during the winter. That cost savings is passed on to the ratepayers.

The mayor also noted the city’s municipal  wastewater treatment plant was designed in such a manner that a parallel plant can be built to accommodate growth without expensive retrofitting.

Weatherford pointed out that such efforts don’t grab a lot of attention but the end result of the staff’s green effort is keeping a lid on municipal costs for those who receive monthly bills for sewer, water, and garbage.