Airport Water Reclamation Facility
Water & Wastewater — Chandler, AZ

Chandler Airport Water Reclamation Facility

As the southeast Valley continues to grow, new means of preserving and managing finite water resources in this burgeoning desert community are vital to sustain current and future generations. The 90-acre Chandler Airport Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) is helping address this need by providing recycled water for irrigation use, significantly enhancing the quality of life of more than 248,000 people living in the region.

In support of the community’s growing water requirements, McCarthy teamed with the city of Chandler and Wilson Engineers to upgrade and expand the existing facility. The modernization and expansion project increased the liquid processing capacity of the existing facility from 10 to 15 million gallons per day (MGD). Enhancements included new high-technology treatment processes, equipment and reservoirs, as well as enhanced reclaimed water capabilities.

The expansion project involved installation of new equipment and reservoirs for the water reclamation distribution system, as well as the required infrastructure for the implementation of new processes in treating 15 MGD of equivalent solids. To increase the plant’s capacity, facility enhancements consisted of a new cast-in-place pre-stage basin; aeration, secondary clarifier and flocculation basins; solids storage tanks; a reclaimed water reservoir and support facilities; as well as all of the equipment, piping, electrical and controls that support facility operations.  

To provide the city with assurance regarding the project’s schedule, quality and safety, McCarthy performed all cast-in-place concrete work, as well as installation of the process piping. Virtual design and construction technology, including process piping 3D modeling was used to ensure quality and expedite procurement and fabrication. Throughout construction, all elements of the plant remained operational and capable of producing Class A+ reclaimed water, meeting Arizona’s highest reclaimed water standards.

Lost Time Safety Incidents
Total Project Man Hours
Dust Violations

Trade Partners

  • Carollo Engineers
  • CSW Contractors
  • Hutzel & Associates, Inc.
  • Nabar Stanley Brown
  • Southwest Land Consulting
  • Wilson Engineers
  • Western Technologies, Inc. 

The Challenge

The project’s magnitude and compressed schedule, along with rising material costs and labor shortages were among the challenges faced by the WRF building team. Community relations, shifting site conditions within an operational facility, and the project’s location next to a busy municipal airport further increased the project’s complexity.

Although water is a vital community resource, the public living or working near a water reclamation facility expect the plant to function as inconspicuously as possible without negatively impacting their daily activities. Proper communication between the public and project stakeholders was crucial to mitigate any perceived conflicts that could have delayed or even canceled the project. The experienced team working on the WRF realized the importance of alleviating community concerns before moving forward with design and construction and collaborated with the city to conduct community outreach early on.

Several site-specific conditions also increased the complexity of work. During the project’s initial construction stages, flows into the plant increased considerably requiring a rerating of the facility (from 10 MGD to 12 MGD) one year prior to the final expansion to 15 MGD. The team was taxed with identifying buildings within the plant requiring completion for rerating, and then expediting construction and procuring equipment for these buildings much earlier than anticipated.

Ensuring continual operation of the existing facility throughout construction was crucial to the community, leaving no room for error when conducting over 100 plant tie-ins. The team was also charged with taking steps to preserve and protect the environment, endangered species and the community during the construction process. These included mitigating issues related to water quality, interference with the adjacent airport, wildlife protection, air quality and construction material waste.

The sheer number of MEP tie-ins involved is staggering on this project...everything we do impacts multiple processes, making coordination the key.

John Pinkston, Facilities Superintendent
City of Chandler

Chandler Airport Water Reclamation Facility

The How

A year before construction began, the city proactively made the choice to gain public support for the project by keeping the community updated on all construction activities. As part of the project’s community outreach, McCarthy participated in regular meetings with Neighborhood Focus Group members to provide project status updates. Additionally, about 2,700 residents from nearby neighborhoods were invited to a meeting to express their thoughts regarding the city’s plan to expand the reclamation facility. Another meeting was held just before the start of construction to share the construction timeline with the public.

In response to the public’s concerns expressed at each of the community meetings, considerable care was taken to minimize plant noise, such as housing loud equipment in acoustically treated buildings, placing structures below grade and using sound absorption panels inside key structures.

Additionally, odor control measures were applied at several treatment process areas within the plant, and the project’s aesthetics were improved. Site beautification enhancements entailed new landscaping in public-facing areas, screening rooftop equipment and covering the clarifiers, basins, chemical facilities and pump stations with metal canopies.

To ensure continual plant operations during construction, McCarthy and Wilson Engineers worked together during the preconstruction phase to develop a thorough coordination plan addressing the maintenance of plant operations (MOPO) throughout the expansion. This process included the creation of a framework to each MOPO activity as a part of the project’s formal planning meetings. Wherever possible, the team developed strategies to sequence construction activities, eliminating interaction between the operating plant and the construction process. In other situations, the building team worked to limit the impact of MOPO activities by making connections during non-operating hours or connecting to only one train of a unit process at a time.

As a solution to the unanticipated increased flows into the facility during early stages of construction, the team met frequently and identified facilities that required completion for rerating. After pinpointing several facilities, the building team expedited construction and procured the equipment needed for operation. Due to this effort, the city’s goal of rerating the facility to 12 MGD one year before the project’s substantial completion was successfully accomplished.

Another inventive solution involved phasing construction of the liquids treatment train approximately six months prior to completion of the solids train. This effort helped supplement the city’s groundwater supplies by streamlining the flow of treated effluent to a recently constructed recharge basin while continuing to ensure that only Class A+ quality water was discharged during construction and plant startup phases.

Due to the project’s location adjacent to the Chandler Airport, great care was taken by the project team to protect the public and mitigate any impact on airport operations. Through constant communication with the airport, the team provided airport officials with the location of the taller cranes and, in some instances, crane heights were modified to alleviate interference with aircraft approaches and takeoffs. Flagging and lights were also used to mark the crane locations, and cranes were lowered before dusk.

Migrating ducks attracted to the large water-bearing structures at the plant posed another potential safety hazard to air traffic upon take-off and landing at the airport. As a preventative measure, metal canopies were designed and constructed to cover all exposed water holding tanks.

Various sustainable construction solutions were also implemented to reduce impact to the environment during construction. All concrete and asphalt removed during the expansion was stored on site until it could be efficiently hauled to the local Chandler concrete recycler, where it was crushed, and then reused to pave the roads on site. Special procedures were also put in place to protect air quality, such as gravel, water application systems, and track-out control devices to curb pollution. 

McCarthy's in-house modeling capability provided the tool for collaboration by all stakeholders to review key project elements in real time, facilitating better decisions and improving the overall quality of the Chandler Airport Water Reclamation Facility.

Uday Ghande, Principal
Wilson Engineers

The Outcome

When projects are designed to exist in harmony with surrounding communities, all the while providing an important public service to support the community’s existence, disagreements can be replaced with alignment of all stakeholders towards a greater common goal. This proved to be the case in the City of Chandler’s Airport Water Reclamation Facility project.

The success of the WRF expansion and facility upgrades exemplify the benefit of close communication and collaboration among owner, engineer, builder and the community. Through careful planning and thoughtful mitigation, McCarthy was able to assist the city of Chandler in saving over $3 million on the expansion project, while overcoming various challenges and completing the project on schedule.

Self-performing 60% of the work, including cast-in-place concrete, equipment setting and mechanical process piping, significantly contributed to achieving the city’s quality, schedule and budget goals for the project. Additionally, McCarthy maintained a 45-acre jobsite that was named to Maricopa County's Air Quality Department honor roll for its dust control efforts. 

As one of the bigger investments a city must make, this civil construction endeavor required excellence in community relations, environmental stewardship, safety performance and construction techniques. A remarkable team rose to the challenge, and residents in the region now have one of the most robust and efficient reclaimed water systems in Arizona.

There were two change orders on the project resulting in a net credit to the city – an accomplishment virtually unheard of in a three-year construction schedule. The smooth integration of design and construction enabled successful and seamless Construction Management at Risk delivery to this significant water reclamation treatment facility expansion.

Kim Neill, Utility Operations Manager
City of Chandler

Awards and Recognition

arizona water association logo
2015 Water Reuse Project of the Year

Airport Water Reclamation Facility
Arizona Water Association

arizona division of occupational safety and health logo
2014 STAR Site

Airport Water Reclamation Facility
Arizona Division of Occupational Safety & Health

arizona water association logo
2010 Wastewater Project of the Year

Airport Water Reclamation Facility
Arizona Water Association

arizona public works association logo
2010 Project of the Year

Public Works Environmental
Airport Water Reclamation Facility
American Public Works Association, Arizona