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Woodlake to treat its water better

Woodlake to treat  its water  better

Woodlake leaders gathered in front the City’s new waste water treatment plant last week to mark a milestone in the City’s history.

Woodlake celebrated the grand opening of its $19.3 million facility with speeches from experts who helped the City achieve its goal to build a state-of-the-art treatment plant which also represented the largest investment of public funds in the City’s history.

The scope of the project can’t truly be appreciated until you talk with experts in the field of waste water treatment, all of which applauded Woodlake’s efforts to build a facility that not only provides for future expansion but creates a safer environment in which residents live.

Ryan James, project manager for C.W. Roen Construction which built the project, said the cooperation between entities and his construction team allowed the plant to be built in less than two years, a near record pass for a facility of this sophistication. James said Woodlake’s facility is up to standards of others built by C.W. Roen in much larger cities across the state. That’s saying a lot from a company that specializes in waste water and waste water treatment facilities.

“Woodlake should be proud of having a facility like this,” James said. “It allows for additional capacity for the City to grow and provides a higher standard for environmental cleanliness.”

City Manager Ramon Lara said the project has been needed since 2001 when the City received a cease and desist order from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board because Woodlake’s facility at that time no longer met state standards for waste water treatment. By 2010, the plant was over capacity and the City was forced to turn away new commercial development. Located just north of the Woodlake Airport on Highway 245, the old facility was built in the 1950s and only offers aeration and percolation of the waste water, which means the process works fine for service commercial and residential users, but cannot handle the capacity or level of contaminants created by heavy commercial or industrial users.

Doug Patteson, Supervising Water Resource Control Engineer with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the cease and desist enforcement order was filed because the old WWTF could not treat the water to the degree required by state regulations.

“With this new facility that is not a concern,” Patteson said in an interview after the grand opening. “But I think the real benefit to the community is there will be less nitrates released into the groundwater.”

Patteson said systems similar to Woodlake’s old WWTF could only treat water to about 30 miligrams per liter but the City’s new plant would be able to reduce the amount of nitrates to 10mg/L, at or below the drinking water standard. Nitrates in Valley water are usually caused by fertilizers and can be deadly for children less than six months old if found in excess of the maximum containment level and if the condition is left untreated.

“This facility will recharge the groundwater with much safer levels of nitrates going forward,” Patteson said.

During his speech, Patteson relayed a message from the Chair of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, Dr. Karl Longley:

“I regret I cannot be in Woodlake for this great occasion (unfortunately I am in Sacramento moderating a two day water treatment meeting).  The construction and initiation of operation of the new Woodlake facility is a credit to [the] vision of Woodlake leaders and the many others who have assisted them to get to this point in time when this state-of-the-science facility is ready to serve Woodlake. My congratulations on a job well done.”

The new plant includes a secondary treatment plant, a pump station, two oxidation ditches and secondary clarifiers, a sludge pump station, an operations building and a new holding pond. A small portion of the plant was built using grant funds, including $4.2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division and $2 million from Proposition 50. Passed by California voters in 2002, Prop. 50 borrowed $3.4 billion in general obligation bonds for water quality, water supply and safe drinking water projects.

Most of the construction of the facility was funded through $13.1 million in low-interest loans from the USDA. Lara said the City will pay back the loan at 2.5% interest over the next 38 years.

Payments will be made through a rate increase approved in 2008 which and took effect throughout the last four years.

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