It will cost Goodyear and Buckeye each at least $1 million just to see if a new water program works.
However, if it works, both cities could end up with a way to reduce hard water and to get rid of wastewater.
At Tuesday’s Buckeye City Council meeting, an agreement was approved for a pilot program to take on some of Buckeye and Goodyear’s wastewater.
“This could be one of our possible treatment solutions, down the line,” said Buckeye water resources director Terry Lowe. “Obviously, we’re looking at lots of different solutions, but this could be one of them.”
Lowe explained brine is the substances removed by a reverse-osmosis, or RO, water purification system. He said a household system needs periodic cleaning by a homeowner, but at a citywide utility scale, the amount of brine removed is massive.
Water works engineers completed a brine management report for the Palo Verde Generating Stations in Tonopah and the cities of Buckeye and Goodyear in October 2021, Lowe explained. The report identified viable options and comparative cost analysis showed feasibility of the city of Buckeye disposing of brackish (brine-heavy) water into a pipeline to the Palo Verde for treatment.
That treated water could be stored, used for cooling at the Red Hawk power station, located about 4 miles south of Palo Verde, with the brine water discharged into Red Hawk’s evaporation ponds.
As a result, Buckeye and Goodyear pursued an agreement for collaborative efforts with Arizona Public Service Co. for development, further analysis, engineering designs, and a series of pilot tests to confirm equipment reliability and longevity of a cooling system for Palo Verde.
APS, the state’s largest utility, operates and owns a portion of Palo Verde.
If additional cities decide to join the project, Lowe said, they will share the project’s cost with the Buckeye and Goodyear evenly. For now, it’s a $1 million cost for both Goodyear and Buckeye, with both cities factoring that into their fiscal 2023 budgets.
If either city backs out of the agreement, the other city would be stuck with the entire $2 million cost.
Under current arrangements, Buckeye and Goodyear must treat water at their own facilities, then haul the brine sediment to landfills themselves. Under a long-term agreement with Palo Verde and Red Hawk, according to Brad Berles, general manager of water resources at the Palo Verde, APS would take care of any hauling of brine sediment to landfills.
Also, Berles said, if the pilot shows viability, APS could build a return line from Red Hawk to Palo Verde, if any water is left over that could be used for cooling at the nuclear power plant.
Lowe said if the pilot program looks promising, long-term APS costs charged to the cities and other long-term planning, such as maintenance and cost of equipment, could be determined at that time.
There are confidentiality and nondisclosure obligations in various parts of the agreement. Goodyear’s council unanimously approved the agreement at its Monday meeting.
Lowe said the benefit for the cities would be that Buckeye and Goodyear would not have to dispose of brine discharge, rejected and unusable water, through a treatment process, into the sewer. This would reduce negative impacts and costs on water reclamation.
Mayor Orsboran pointed out that a pipeline out toward Palo Verde already exists. It’s conveniently located and will be an ideal discharge point for discharge water.
Lowe said he believes if the program isn’t feasible long-term, water works staff likely will recognize this right away.
“If it doesn’t work out, that would be the end of it,” Lowe said. “All of the work would be done by APS on-site at Palo Verde,” Lowe said. “Buckeye’s role is to hire the consultants and to pay to get the water out there. We have to determine how much water we’ll be sending for the study and to determine a plan for when the line is down for maintenance.”
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