Chlorine has been swapped out for 574 ultraviolet bulbs at the Galt wastewater plant. The bulbs are the new final cleaning process before Galt's wastewater is discharged to Skunk Creek and eventually to the Delta.
The new UV disinfection system is part of $16.6 million in improvements the city finished this month to meet state requirements.
California's regional water quality control boards throughout the states are requiring cities to perform costly upgrades to their treatment plants to bring them up to what is called tertiary treatment standards.
Lodi completed similar upgrades in 2005 at the White Slough wastewater treatment plant that cost $40 million.
The upgrades lead to higher bills for residents. In Galt, residents have paid an additional $25 a month since 2007.
The equipment provides another step of cleaning for the water that travels from the city's toilets to the plant and then into rivers or onto farmland.
When water enters the plant, it goes through a multi-step process that includes passing through screens and sitting in ponds to separate solids from the water and eliminate bacteria.
As part of the new upgrades, the water then passes through 10 filters that feel like rubber and take out microscopic material. After that, the water goes through the UV lights.
The city also added a new area where biosolids can dry out into pieces that look like charcoal after they are removed from the wastewater.
Previously, Galt had to hold the treated water in a reservoir during the winter until the summer crops needed to be irrigated. Farmers grow clover, rye grass and other crops intended for animals using the water, plant supervisor Bo Dahlberg said.
The city can discharge into the Delta with the additional treatment procedures.
Galt officials and city employees gathered at the plant Wednesday to dedicate the new upgrades with a plaque the contractors donated for on the new control building.
City Manager Jason Behrmann said it is important for the plant to be in compliance with the state requirements to prevent any expensive fines. He thanked city staff for moving the project along.
"All of the things that you worry about as a manager, staying in budget and having it done on time, it's a miracle it all got done," he said.
The city spent seven months on the upgrades, and the staff at the plant has focused on learning all the new state requirements and equipment, Dahlberg said.
"You can't do one thing at a time. It's all at once, which is challenging with the crew we have," he said.
The crew of four operators and two maintenance workers now have a new tool to help reduce overtime and ensure the plant is operating correctly. The workers can access the all of the plants controls and make changes from any remote computer, which means less late night runs out to the plant when something is wrong.
At the dedication, many of the city officials alluded to a new discharge permit the state imposed on the Sacramento regional sewage treatment plant.
Cost estimates to bring up the 1982 plant to required state standards is around $2 billion.
Galt Councilwoman Barbara Payne said she is proud that Galt has already made the upgrades to its plant.
"Galt, California is ahead of Sacramento. We got there before them. We blazed the trail," she said.