Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg is moving toward expanding the use of its recycled wastewater as more grape growers express interest in its use for vineyard irrigation.
The City Council has taken an initial step of expanding the area where Healdsburg delivers reclaimed water, requiring a new two-mile pipeline from the wastewater treatment plant to serve approximately 600 acres between Westside Road and the Russian River to the south.
Some vineyard managers there are eager to get access to the water, and Healdsburg — which has been under pressure for years to reduce discharges of that water into the Russian River during summer months — is ready to oblige, to the point of footing the approximate $500,000 construction cost of the pipeline.
“We’re under a mandate to not release water — tertiary, highly treated water — into the Russian River five months of the year,” Mayor Tom Chambers said Friday. “We need to come up with various ways to achieve that and one way is to provide water for irrigation to vineyards interested in doing so.”
Read more at: Healdsburg may expand water reuse program | The Press Democrat
Santa Rosa is putting the finishing touches on a $200,000 wall surrounding vital sections of the Laguna wastewater treatment plant in an effort to prevent El Niño-fueled flood waters from inundating the low-lying facility.
Workers this week maneuvered into place the final few 4,000-pound concrete blocks that will make up most of a 950-foot-long wall designed to keep the waters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa at bay in the event of serious storms.
“It’s a little bit like Legos,” explained Mike Prinz, director of operations at the Llano Road plant, describing the construction process.
The location of the city’s wastewater treatment plant alongside the Laguna leaves it vulnerable to flooding. In the winter of 2005 and 2006, for example, floodwaters entered the plant and swept away an estimated 50,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater. For that and other violations, the city was fined $194,500 by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board.
So plant officials have been thinking for a few years about building a permanent flood protection wall to keep the plant safe from 100-year or even 500-year floods, Prinz said. But that project is still being studied and has yet to be funded.
Read more at: Flood wall built to protect Santa Rosa treatment plant
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County officials fanned out in the Canon Manor neighborhood east of Rohnert Park this week warning dozens of residents that water drawn from private wells may be contaminated with E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria.
Two wells outside homes in the neighborhood near Sonoma State University already have tested positive for what county officials called “extremely high” levels of the two strains of bacteria. The county ordered the property owners to discontinue using the wells, which are in the 1700 block of Lynn Drive. The owners have subsequently hooked up to a system operated by the Penngrove/Kenwood Water Co.
County health officials stressed that there have been no reports of anyone being sickened from drinking or using water from contaminated wells in Canon Manor. Symptoms of E. coli infection include abdominal distress and headaches. It’s unknown whether the contamination also includes potentially deadly strains of the bacteria as the county’s lab tests are not that specific, according to Karen Holbrook, the county’s deputy health officer.
“We’re acting out of an abundance of caution,” she said.
The county first received a complaint about sewage odors emanating from a well Dec. 18 from a property owner on Lynn Drive. Tests of wells on two adjacent properties revealed the presence of more than 2,419 colonies of E. coli and fecal coliform in a 100-milliliter sampling of water. There are no safe levels for either bacteria.
Read more at: E. coli contamination in wells near Rohnert Park | The Press Democrat
Barry Eberling, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Napa Sanitation District has new, multi-million dollar plans to slake the county’s growing thirst for recycled water.
The district has almost completed $20 million in projects to double its recycled water output. It’s also working on a $14 million Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay pipeline and a $20 million Carneros line to deliver this increased output to more rural homes and vineyards.
Once all of this is done, the district each year will be turning out 3,600 acre feet of recycled water good enough to irrigate vineyards, landscaping, parks and golf courses, though not to drink. An acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre a foot deep.
As an encore, the district will try to increase this amount to 4,500 acre feet over the coming decade. A $33.2 million package of proposed projects to help meet that goal should soon be under the microscope of an environmental impact report.
“There’s more demand for recycled water in Napa than we can provide,” district Chief Financial Officer Jeff Tucker said.
Read more at: Napa Sanitation is doubling its deliveries of recycled water
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cities up and down the Russian River watershed are urging Sonoma County to pass a local law requiring drug companies to pay for a system to collect unwanted or expired medicines and dispose of them in a way that is safer for residents and the environment.
Six Sonoma County cities have signed letters urging the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to study enacting such a countywide ordinance. The Santa Rosa City Council is set to take up the matter Tuesday night and two other cities, Sonoma and Petaluma, are considering the issue.
If approved, such a law would shift the burden for disposal of prescription medicines, which can harm aquatic environments, from local governments to the private sector.
“It’s inequitable because we’re picking up the tab for this work while the most important stakeholder in this process, the pharmaceutical industry, is not part of the solution as of yet,” Cotati City Councilman Mark Landman told Santa Rosa’s Board of Public Utilities last month.
Sonoma and Mendocino counties have a publicly funded but rag-tag medicine collection system that has kept 90,000 pounds of drugs out of landfills since 2007. The 11 cities and other government agencies in the Russian River Watershed Association fund and manage the program.
But the high cost — amounting to about $1.1 million to date — fragmented management responsibility, and sharp decrease in number of drop-off sites have left the program struggling.
Read more at: Push on in Sonoma County to pass pill disposal to drug companies
Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Showering during California’s drought is a guilt-free experience for homeowners Catarina Negrin and Noah Friedman.
The Berkeley couple — she runs a pre-school, he’s an architect — are early adopters of a home plumbing do-over that’s becoming more popular during California’s record four-year dry stretch.
California, like many states, long required all water used in homes to be piped out with the sewage, fearing health risks if water recycling is done clumsily.
Since 2010, however, the increasingly dry state has come around, and now even encourages the reuse of so-called gray water, which typically includes the gently-used runoff from bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs and washing machines.
As mandatory conservation kicked in statewide this month, forcing many of California’s 38 million people to face giving up on greenery, these recycling systems have become attractive options in new homes, right along with granite countertops. California Building Industry Association executive Robert Raymer rattles off the drought-conscious top builders that now routinely offer in-home water recycling.
And California’s building codes are catching up as well, allowing owners of existing homes to create the simplest systems for the safest gray water without a permit.
So while others think about hauling buckets to catch stray drips from their sinks and tubs, Negrin and Friedman can relax: Each gallon they use in the shower means another for the butterflies that duck and bob over their vegetable garden, for the lemon tree shading the yard, and for two strutting backyard chickens busily investigating it all.
“I love a lush garden, and so it seems like why not, right? I could have a lush garden if it doesn’t go into the sewer system,” Negrin said. “So, yes, “I’m going to take a shower.”
Because pathogens swimming in untreated gray water can transmit disease if humans ingest them, most modern health and building codes have long made recycling it impractical. Many families did it anyway, without official oversight or permits. Greywater Action, a group that promotes household water recycling and trains families and installers on the do’s and don’ts, estimates that more than a million Californians had illegal systems before plumbing codes were updated.
But interest in doing it the right way has soared since April 1, when Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25-percent cut in water use by cities and towns. Palo Alto gray-water system installer Sassan Golafshan saw his website crash within a day from the surge in traffic.
Read more at: California’s Drought Spurring Water Recycling at Home | Sci-Tech Today
Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
California is proposing broad changes in the way it protects underground water sources from oil and gas operations, after finding 2,500 instances in which the state authorized oil and gas operations in protected water aquifers.
State oil and gas regulators on Monday released a plan they sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week for bringing the state back into compliance with federal safe-drinking water requirements.
An ongoing state and federal review has determined the state has repeatedly authorized oil-industry injection into aquifers that were supposed to be protected as current or potential sources of water for drinking and watering crops and livestock.
An Associated Press analysis found hundreds of the now-challenged state permits for oilfield injection into protected aquifers have been granted since 2011, despite growing EPA warnings about oilfield threats to the state’s underground water reserves.
"It’s a problem that needs our very close attention and an urgent path forward," Steve Bohlen, head of the state Department of Conservation’s oil and gas division, told reporters Monday.
Bohlen said 140 of those 2,553 injection wells were of primary concern to the state now, because they were actively injecting oil-field fluids into aquifers with especially designated good water quality.
State water officials currently are reviewing those 140 oil-field wells to see which are near water wells and to assess any contamination of water aquifers from the oil and gas operations, Bohlen said.
The U.S. EPA had given the state until Friday to detail how it would deal with current injection into protected water aquifers and stop future permitting of risky injection.
Read more via California pledges changes in protecting underground water | The Press Democrat.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s new public electricity supplier is turning to the sun and water — the airspace over treated sewage ponds, specifically — to generate power for local homes and businesses.
Under a deal signed Thursday with a San Francisco-based renewable energy developer, officials with Sonoma Clean Power, now the default electricity provider in Sonoma County, unveiled a plan to install a 12.5-megawatt solar farm on floating docks atop holding ponds operated by the county Water Agency.
When completed in 2016, the project, which will provide enough electricity to power 3,000 homes, will be the largest solar installation in the county.
It also will help fulfill one of Sonoma Clean Power’s central goals — to develop local sources of renewable energy for its expanding customer base, now taking in more than 160,000 residential and commercial accounts across five cities in the county.
Before its launch last May, and through its first nine months of operation, the public venture faced pointed questions as to how quickly it would be able to spearhead local energy projects given constraints on rural land use and the comparatively higher price of power from smaller systems versus large, far-flung industrial sources.
Sonoma Clean Power officials said the planned solar installation served as a key early benchmark of progress in the agency’s rollout.
Read more via Sonoma Clean Power inks deal for floating solar | The Press Democrat.
Cordel Stillman, 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.
via Sonoma County Water Agency Update on Occidental Wastewater Treatment.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Occidental’s embattled wastewater treatment system needs a multimillion-dollar upgrade completed within three years, and nearby grape growers are likely part of the solution.
If that plan — expected to cost $5 million to $6 million and bump up rates for the sewer district’s roughly 100 customers — doesn’t work out, the small west county community’s wastewater might be trucked out of the area for treatment, officials said.
The proposed solution, including improvements to the existing treatment plant on Occidental Road and a pipeline carrying wastewater to a vineyard on Morelli Lane, will be reviewed at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Union Hotel in Occidental.
Residents will have a chance to comment on the potential impacts of the project as part of the determination of whether it will require a full environmental impact report.
Because the proposed project would be on property already used by the system and on county roads, the county hopes to issue a “negative declaration” and avoid the time and expense of a full report, said Cordel Stillman, Sonoma County Water Agency chief deputy engineer.
Occidental’s system, one of eight operated by the Water Agency, faces a Jan. 31, 2018 state deadline to stop holding treated wastewater in a pond next to the treatment plant, used as a storage reservoir since 1977.
Read more via Grape growers could alleviate Occidental’s wastewater issues | The Press Democrat.