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New team member joins VAFB

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The responsibility for maintaining the water and wastewater systems on VAFB recently changed hands with a new 50-year utilities privatization contract with American Water, Inc. here, June 1. 

The new contract will save the Air Force millions of dollars in maintenance costs as well as bring 11 million dollars in much needed infrastructure improvements over the first three years, and introduce new water conservation technologies.

“This was a big initiative for Civil Engineers over the last nine months. We are excited to bring American Water on board as the Vandenberg Water and Sewer Department since they have Utility Privatization experience already at 11 other military bases,” said Lt. Col. Alex Mignery, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight commander. “This initiative is a good thing for the Air Force since cost models show an average cost avoidance of 14 percent over the life of the contract.”

Because the contract is on a 50-year timeline, Vandenberg will now always have the funding for water and sewer, with upgrades already taking place to make the infrastructure industry standard.

“This 50-year contract now becomes a must pay bill by the Air Force,” said Capt. Harrison Sanchez, 30th CES engineering flight deputy. “Which means that our contractor will always have funds for maintaining and operating our water and waste-water systems. Meaning VAFB will have industry standard infrastructure and better water quality. American Water also introduces new technology that can help us conserve water during hydrant flushing operations, such as the Neutral Output Discharge Elimination System truck. Water main flushing scours out pipe buildup and is necessary in maintaining water quality especially in dead zones, but wastes thousands of gallons of water. People don't really understand seeing water going down the storm drains, especially during a severe drought. NODES solves that, it filters and recycles water back into the system.”

The changeover has been happening since the 299 million dollar contract was awarded in September, with the 30th CES and American Water working as a team since then.

“We took a left-seat right-seat approach during the last two months of the eight month transition,” said Mignery. “Once American Water had hired their staff, CE and American Water went to job sites together to introduce to them to where different valves and lift stations were located on base and better incorporate them into our processes.”

The transition wasn’t without challenges however, and during the eight month changeover every component of the system had to be documented.

“We had to identify everything, and on a base this size with over 300-miles of water lines and over 100-miles of sewer lines, it was a time consuming process,” said Mignery. “We had to identify how many different types of valves we were handing over and what type of pipes. From September till now it has been a team approach where we collaboratively identified all the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the water and sewer infrastructure. All said and done we had a list of 6,000 line items that we handed over for American Water to take responsibility of.”

For the base populace the change will be seamless, since the 30th CES will still be the main contact for any broken water lines on base.

“For people that work on base the changes should be seamless,” said Mignery. “Really the only change is to be aware that someone different is treating their water and that American Water might come fix the next water line break as opposed to CE. The process stays the same. If you see a water or sewer issue you still call Civil Engineering and we will have the appropriate personnel respond. And the CE Water and Fuels System Maintenance shop continues to oversee all interior plumbing along with maintaining all natural gas, fire suppression and liquid fuel lines on base. For CE this was a big change, but a change we are already embracing.”

 

If you see a water break call CE’s 24-hr damage control center line at 805-606-1856, or 805-606-0010 during the duty day.