Expansion & Opportunity

March 9, 2018

New Mexico pueblo improves treatment plant to spur economic growth

About the author:

Michael Meyer is associate editor for WWD. Meyer can be reached at [email protected] or 847.954.7940.

  • Name: Santa Ana Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • Location: Pueblo of Santa Ana, N.M.
  • Size: 0.4 mgd
  • Infrastructure: Drum screens, submersible mixers, solids-handling pumps, fine bubble diffusers, MBR, centrifugal pumps, belt filter press

The Pueblo of Santa Ana is a Native American tribe with land located near the Rio Grande River in west central New Mexico, across Highway 550 from the fast-growing city of Rio Rancho, N.M., approximately 20 miles north of Albuquerque, N.M., and approximately 50 miles southwest of Santa Fe, N.M. Its people, who have lived on this land since at least the late 1500s, call the area Tamaya. 

Though its actual population is quite small—it has approximately 800 tribal members—the Pueblo of Santa Ana’s land has become a recreation destination for residents of the nearby cities and tourists from all over the U.S. It is the site of the Santa Ana Star Casino (the first Native American casino in New Mexico, which opened in 1993), the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, the Santa Ana Golf Club, and the Twin Warriors Golf Club.

Enabling Growth

Due in large part to the number of people attracted to these businesses and others, the Santa Ana Wastewater Treatment Plant was operating at approximately 90% capacity. This strained plans for further commercial and residential growth in the area, so the Santa Ana Tribal Utility Authority explored options for a plant capacity upgrade. In July 2015, the authority awarded a design-build contract to Brycon Corp. of Rio Rancho and MWH Constructors to improve the facility’s aging infrastructure. The contractors broke ground in October 2015 and observed an aggressive timetable in order to stay within the project’s budget and accommodate developments that were started in conjunction with the upgrade, including a new hotel located next to the Santa Ana Star Casino and several retail outlets.

The project converted the plant’s treatment system from clarifiers and filtration to a more efficient membrane bioreactor system, which allowed the facility to improve its peak flow capacity to 0.4 million gal per day (mgd), which can be expanded to 0.8 mgd in the future. In addition, a solids bioreactor basin was converted to a sludge basin. A 5,000-sq-ft administration and laboratory building, a 14,000-sq-ft equipment building, a sludge dewatering building, a pump station, a new headworks facility, and anoxic and aeration basins also were constructed. Approximately 3,000 ft of new pipeline were laid, as well.

Addressing the facility’s treatment load during this extensive upgrade project necessitated precise planning from all involved.

“During the construction process, the entire existing plant needed to remain in operation,” said Kevin Montoya, utilities director for Santa Ana Pueblo. “This required the construction team to work hand in hand with operations staff to phase and sequence the construction activities to eliminate any impacts to the existing treatment process.”

A number of anoxic and aeration basins (top) and buildings (bottom) were added to the Santa Ana Wastewater Treatment Plant during the facility’s recent upgrade.

Understanding the Land

Given this land’s spiritual and aesthetic value to its residents and visitors, the project team made it a point to respect the area in which they were working.

“Taking into consideration the history, culture and aesthetics of this particular area was extremely important to the project,” said Kane Bormann, assistant project manager for MWH Constructors. “Building aesthetically pleasing architectural and landscaping features that complimented the natural environment was a prominent component to the design. As a result, Brycon and MWH Constructors approached this project with the utmost consideration in maintaining the pueblo’s efforts of preserving and protecting the 79,000-plus acres where the Tamaya people call home.”

The contractors also implemented noise control provisions designed to minimize the amount of disturbance the construction would cause for adjacent businesses, including the Hyatt hotel and the golf clubs. Additionally, they worked with tribal leaders to draft a memo of environmental understanding that outlined the steps that had to be taken when working on the tribal land.

“This document included cultural considerations and guidelines for the discovery of any artifacts during the construction process,” Bormann said. “If any artifacts were found, work was to be stopped immediately and reported to the tribal cultural liaison.”

The upgrades to the Santa Ana Wastewater Treatment Plant were substantially completed on May 31, 2017—just 18 months after construction began. The project cost $19.7 million and is expected to drive economic growth of the tribe for years to come.

About the Author

Michael Meyer