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Sonoma County Water Agency Update on Occidental Wastewater Treatment

Occidental Oriented by Mackenzie Nekton
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Sonoma County Water Agency Update on Occidental Wastewater Treatment

By Cordel Stillman, Deputy Chief Engineer, Sonoma County Water Agency

On January 7, about 40 people gathered at the Union Hotel for a meeting to discuss the beginning of the design process and environmental analysis for the proposed Occidental County Sanitation District (District) Recycled Water Project (Project). The meeting to discuss the Notice of Preparation was the first step in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.  Attendees asked more than two dozen questions. This was no surprise. For the past 18 months, ratepayers and people living in the outlying areas have regularly attended community meetings on the issue, asking hard questions and proposing a variety of ideas to help minimize rate increases while beneficially using the recycled water.

 In a nutshell, here is the problem: The District’s current treatment plant on LuDan Road is an old, inadequate system that needs upgrading. The plant currently treats water to a secondary level. In addition, the District is under a cease-and-desist order to end the discharge of recycled water into Graham's Pond by January 1, 2018 . The pond, which drains into Dutch Bill Creek, is currently used to store recycled water.

To solve the problem, the District is proposing to do the following:

  • Upgrade treatment to a tertiary level, plus any changes that will allow for discharges into Dutch Bill Creek from October 1-May 15.  Discharges can only be equivalent to 1% of the flow of Dutch Bill Creek. This means that storage options will be needed.
  • The Project is currently contemplating two possible treatment sites:  The existing lift station (Occidental-Camp Meeker Road) or the existing treatment plant (LuDan Road). Disinfection and filtration would be included in the treatment process. Disinfection could be by either chlorine or ultra-violet light.
  • The recycled water would be used to irrigate agricultural operations in the Harrison Grade area to offset current well water use and the trucking of water from other watersheds.
  • A recycled water pipeline would be constructed to a property on Morelli Lane. Dutton Vineyards is building a pond on this property, and would like to store and use recycled water for irrigation. The District is also interested in other storage and irrigation options along the pipeline route to beneficially use the recycled water.
  • While a pipeline route is identified in the Notice of Preparation (NOP) that the District released, the actual route could vary after design work is conducted and a treatment location is determined.
  • The project also contemplates a truck-filling station at the CDF fire station on Acreage Lane.
  • Once a preferred project has been identified through the design process, the project will undergo CEQA review. A draft document that identifies the proposed project and any potential impacts and mitigation measures to avoid or minimize those impacts will be made available to the public for review and comment.

In order to meet the January 2018 deadline, the project is on a tight timeline. Comments on the Notice of Preparation (which was released in December) were due by January 22. The next step is the preparation of an environmental document. At the same time, the District is hiring a design consultant to further develop the project, including determining the best location for treatment and a specific pipeline route. By 2017, we hope to have a complete design and for construction to be underway.

Please email Ann.DuBay@scwa.ca.gov if you are interested in being added to the District’s email list. In the meantime, check our webpage, www.sonomacountywater.org/OCSD for environmental documents, project facts, and timeline and information about recycled water.

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