Frequently Asked Questions

What is Veolia’s contract with the City of Richmond with regard to the treatment of the city’s wastewater?

Veolia was engaged by the City of Richmond in 2002 to handle the treatment of the city's wastewater and make improvements and upgrades to the aging facility; in 2004, an addendum to that contract was made that added responsibility for the management, improvements and upgrades to the city's sewer and collection systems. To view the actual contract, contact the City's Public Works department at (510) 231-3011.

How does the City’s decision to evaluate alternatives for wastewater treatment impact Veolia?

While we support the study of alternative solutions, we continue to be committed to the ongoing operations of Richmond's wastewater collection and treatment services and to ensuring that we deliver on the expectations of the City and our customers.Any alternative to the current operations and management of Richmond's wastewater treatment services will take years to implement and will require an experienced operator in the interim and during the transition.

The City of Richmond contracted with Veolia to handle significant issues that were impacting the facility and our record demonstrates that we have addressed the majority of the original concerns and improved operations. As a company, we want to be in Richmond and we remain steadfast in our belief that we bring the best expertise and deepest experience in running efficient and cost-effective wastewater treatment facilities.

What is the process for treating the City of Richmond’s wastewater?

Wastewater that comes into the Veolia-run wastewater treatment facility goes through a rigorous process for removing a variety of waste products and treating the remaining water in such a way that it can be safely disposed of in the Bay. Click here to see a detailed view of the flow process.

How safe is the treated water when it goes into the Bay?

The wastewater treatment process is a rigorous one, as you will see during a tour of the plant. What is finally discharged into the Bay meets strict standards established in a discharge permit issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

What is your record of compliance in running the Richmond facility?

The Richmond wastewater treatment plant is more than 60 years old. Since taking over in 2002, Veolia Water, working with the city, has improved the facility's permit compliance record from 67 percent to 97 percent today, dropping water quality citations by nearly 90 percent.Sanitary sewer overflows have been reduced by 84 percent in the past four years.

What causes overflows of the sewer system?

The sewer system is susceptible to overflows due to environmental factors, such as rainfall and tidal action. For example, heavy rains or high tide can impact the system and result in excess flows. Veolia monitors this closely and takes actions, such as activating pumps, to mitigate the situation, as well as preventive measures such as cleaning out the lines continuously to prevent blockages that cause manhole overflows.

Does what you do affect our drinking water?

No. East Bay MUD controls the production and distribution of drinking water.

Why are odors apparent on some days and not on others?

Weather plays a major role in whether odors of any kind - wastewater treatment, chemical plant, rail yard - are detected in Richmond.When the winds come from the South, it carries odors which may emanate from the facility because of the way the plant equipment is laid out.

Dry, warm weather can increase odors from the collection system due in part to lack of flushing and the buildup of organic materials in the sewer lines.Especially during late summer into mid-fall, there tend to be periods of light or no winds; the lack of air mixing can increase localized impacts from the treatment plant.

On the other hand, rain and winds coming from the north help to keep odors at a minimum or undetectable. To learn more about odors associated with wastewater management, click here to read "Understanding Odors."

How are you monitoring odors?

Effective H2S monitoring is an important part of Veolia's odor management program.There is an H2S monitoring network installed by the City of Richmond and intended to detect H2S emissions from any potential source.Veolia staff initiate an investigative response when H2S levels exceed 30 parts per billion (ppb) at either the plant's north or south fence line monitors.

This 30 ppb level is set as a precautionary response point and is one half of the treatment plant's BAAQMD-issued permit (set at an average of 60 ppb). For context, BAAQMD uses an outdoor air quality measure of 30 ppb over a one hour period as the Ambient Air Quality Standard for H2S in the Bay Area.

How does the Veolia Water staff respond to H2S monitor alerts?

Odors are a natural part of the wastewater treatment process and we have a number of ways in which we mitigate odor and help to keep it from becoming an issue for residents. We:

  • Apply chemical addition/treatment including chlorine, ferric chloride and polymer if necessary.
  • Maintain a rigorous maintenance and housekeeping schedule at the facility to help reduce odors.
  • Have evaluated the need to re-locate grit and rag bins and Vactor (sewer cleaning trucks) dump stations at the plant, to minimize potential off-site odor impacts.
  • Apply odor masking spray mist.
  • Keep chlorinated water in off-line tanks as necessary to reduce potential odor impacts.
  • Installed a biofilter odor control system at the headworks building.
  • Work with the City to develop and analyze data from various points throughout the sewer system that may point to contributors of odors.
  • Clean and test the wastewater sewer lines in areas where complaints originated.
  • Upgraded Point Richmond manhole covers to newer design to help eliminate potential collection system odors.
  • Are evaluating and recommending odor reduction/management facility upgrades.

Although Veolia has and continues to make considerable improvements to the aging treatment facility and city infrastructure, not all odors can be controlled. Factors such as temperature, wind speed and wind direction can make odors more noticeable but where we can control odors, we are committed to doing so. To learn more about odor control, click here to read "Understanding Odors."

Are you planning to identify further ways to mitigate odors?

Yes. We are working in cooperation with Webster Environmental Associates on a comprehensive odor study, which will look at identifying the root cause of odors in the wastewater treatment and the Point Richmond collection system, in particular.Webster Environmental performed the original odor study of the Richmond wastewater treatment plant in 2007.The study was kicked off on May 6 and will run through the summer with the summary report targeted for completion by the end of September.A report will be provided to the City with recommendations on areas of improvement and rehabilitation.The study will also drive our efforts for enhanced odor evaluation, response and mitigation.

How are odor calls/complaints handled?

The odor report line is staffed 24 hours a day/7 days a week.If we receive a call after plant operating hours, plant personnel are dispatched to respond within one hour.Written response reports are provided to the resident.If a plant fence line alert is activated, a member of Veolia's field team is immediately notified and dispatched to respond within one hour to investigate.Veolia Water details odor report line calls and alerts to the City in a bi-weekly odor summary report and provides tabulated data in its monthly operating report to the City.

To report unusually strong odors, call (510) 412-2001.

Who can we call if we have more questions?

Veolia's Richmond management team regularly attends the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council meetings (the last Wednesday of each month) and is available for plant tours and to answer questions from our neighbors.

Aaron Winer, the Veolia plant manager, makes himself available any time for resident questions or concerns through email or phone. His contact information is:

Aaron Winer, Plant Manager
Email: [email protected]
Office: (510) 412-2001