CDCR-Susanville Wastewater Treatment Plant Modifications Project

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The California Correctional Center at Susanville and High Desert State Prison, owned by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), has grown and prison wastewater flows have exceeded the wastewater treatment system capability. As a result of overloading of the existing treatment facility and disposal areas, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a number of Board Orders requiring changes to and an upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant. GHD was contracted to design the upgrades for the plant. The nearly USD40 million project was designed in 2007 – 2008 with construction scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2009.

The existing facility is located in an unincorporated area of Lassen County, approximately seven miles east of the City of Susanville and is situated on a 1,100-acre parcel owned by CDCR. The Susanville-CDCR wastewater treatment plant provides treatment for approximately 10,000 people from both prisons by treating, storing and reclaiming wastewater for agricultural use.

The design developed by GHD was to manage the prison wastewater treatment system and disposal fields included upgrading and expanding the treatment plant and disposal areas, with the average plant influent flow capacity increasing from 1.4 to 1.8 million gallons per day and the existing treatment system consisting of two highly aerated ponds and two sedimentation ponds.

The storage capacity of the system was increased from 720 to 1,200 acres per foot and an increase in the irrigation system coverage from 320 to 570 acres. The engineering analysis and finalised design incorporated a long term biosolids management strategy that will enhance the agricultural operations at the prison, which will also enhance the performance and longevity of the irrigation fields. The treated wastewater contains nitrates and required management to mitigate groundwater contamination. Furthermore, salts contained in the native soils had to also be managed to mitigate groundwater contamination and accumulation to an agronomic toxic level within the soil. These issues were addressed in an agronomic analysis as a part of the overall irrigation field management strategy developed for the project.

The plant improvements developed by GHD included replacement to the headworks/influent screening equipment, the construction of a primary oxidation pond, modifications to the four secondary ponds, the construction of two treatment wetlands and the addition of a 250 acre irrigation field. The goal of the system modifications were to provide capacity for increased flow requirements, reduce operational and energy costs by implementing an innovative natural treatment design, implementing energy efficient designs, improving existing system efficiencies, improving process control and providing improved reporting capabilities. Because the plant is critical and the improvements affected the plants entire process, the construction and modifications to the plant had to be designed to enable the plant to function without disruption of normal plant operations.

GHD provided design and construction management services for the project and included:

  • Regulatory project approval and CEQA compliance assistance
  • Civil engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering  

Plant electrical improvements included modifying the existing distribution system, modifying and adding motor controls, installation of energy efficient motors throughout the plant, the addition and replacement of variable frequency drives (VFD’s) and a new plant Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.

Included into the SCADA improvements were the addition of dissolved oxygen sensors for automatic aerator control; Human Machine Interfaces (HMI’s) strategically located throughout the facility for control and process monitoring; and an automated reporting system to replace the plants existing manual reporting and data logging procedures for improved operator productivity and more efficient plant operations.

Wastewater Treatment & Recycling


Because all wastewaters are different, it is necessary to work with a team that can combine comprehensive knowledge with practical experience in the fields of chemistry, biology, hydraulics, mechanical processes/equipment, instrumentation and control, materials handling and plant layout.

GHD can deliver on all the process components that make up a wastewater treatment plant. We have designed and project managed more than 300 wastewater treatment plants (including major municipal facilities processing 500Ml a day and industrial projects).

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