Santa Paula: Public Works Projects Foretell More Costly Water

By Sheryl Hamlin

Two Public Works items on the January 16, 2018 Santa Paula City Council portend more expensive water in the future: Public Water Fill Station and NPDES Stormwater Trash Discharge System.

Public Water Fill Station

From the staff report:

The Recycled Water Fill Station Project (Project) is consistent with the General Order and the LARWQCB’s determination. The intent of the Project is to provide for a self- haul, fill station facility as an interim means to begin the new distribution of recycled water until a complete new recycled water distribution pipeline system is installed throughout the city. Potential self-haulers are local farmers, landscape and construction contractors, the State of California Department of Transportation, Mountain View Golf Course, and the general public. The Project’s general scope of work consists of installing new piping, fittings, couplings, joints, and appurtenances at the WRF for assemblage of a new recycled water fill station.

Capital Projects Engineer John Ilasin presented this “long awaited project” as a way to help reduce chloride to the river. By allowing self-haulers to take recycled water before the water is sent to the percolation ponds, theoretically, there will be fewer chlorides in the water. According to Attorney Cotti, the city’s chloride level is still above the 110 level allowed and verges above 125.

Council Member Procter asked for clarification as to the customers of this water. Mr. Ilasin indicated the uses would be commercial, agriculture, and landscaping. The water is not potable. There was no discussion about the charge for this recycled water.

Three speakers spoke against the new water treatment plant in general and the quality of recycled water it produces: Dr. Ed McGowan, Woody Maxwell and Catherine Malzacher-Maxwell.

Dr. McGowan indicated that the current State of California Title 22 standard is weak and will be shortly revised. He provided the council with documents about the public health issues of using this water (not in public packet). Woody Maxwell gave the history of the new water treatment facility saying that the design was inadequate, it consumed too much agriculture land and produces air pollutants. He also said the former plant is still there. The well of the neighboring farm owned by the Malzacher family has been severely polluted according to their data. Catherine Malzacher-Maxwell indicated they have data proving the problem which harms their certified organic crops.

The council approved the item, but Attorney Cotti indicated he would follow up with the data from the Malzacher well.

The Future Expense for the City and Ratepayers

If the Title 22 standard is to be made more stringent, there will be expensive changes needed to the city’s waste water treatment plant, which according to Dr. McGowan will require a full RO (reversie osmosis) system for compliance.

NPDES Stormwater Trash Discharge

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES), authorized by the Clean Water Act, are implemented by regional water boards.

With Santa Paula’s proximity to the Santa Clara River, its discharge, either solid or liquid, to the river is measured. The water board is requiring the city to indicate when it would comply with the trash discharge element of NPDES.

Per the staff report:

There is no fiscal impact in selecting either compliance method option. However, the cost estimate to implement Compliance Track 1 (full capture systems) would range from $600 to $1,000 per installation, excluding maintenance cost and Staff time. Funding would be from Fund 205 (NPDES Stormwater Quality), specifically from the Benefit Assessment Unit property tax assessment. The estimated time frame to implement Compliance Track 1 would be Fiscal Year 2019/2020. No cost estimate is available at this time for Compliance Track 2 as no multi-benefit projects are currently identified.

Note that legal analyses have concluded that the city can recoup expenses for these NPDES projects providing they follow Proposition 218 guidelines. Here is a brief from California League of Cities.

According to the staff report, compliance must occur by the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The measure was approved.

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