Q&A: Wastewater master plan is scalable for future demand

By From page A11 | July 17, 2013

El Dorado Irrigation District’s Communications and Community Relations Director Mary Lynn Carlton spoke with Engineering Manager Elizabeth Wells and Wastewater Operations Manager Vickie Caulfield about the Wastewater Facilities Master Plan. 

Q: The Wastewater Facilities Master Plan (WWFMP) was approved by the EID Board of Directors on May 28. What is the purpose of the plan and how does it tie in with the district’s Integrated Water Resources Master Plan (IWRMP)?

A: The goal behind the WWFMP is to develop a comprehensive plan that provides a roadmap for cost-effective planning and implementation of future infrastructure, and maintenance of existing wastewater treatment facilities.

The IWRMP — approved by the board in March — is the planning document for the water side. Taken together, the two plans allow EID to more effectively respond to infrastructure expansion and maintenance needs, as well as respond to any future demands as approved through the El Dorado County’s General Plan.

Q: What are some of the key issues the WWFMP addresses?

A: During the development of the WWFMP, three key issues were addressed. One focuses on wastewater discharge alternatives and future role of recycled water. Since 1999, demand for recycled water has steadily increased. In the El Dorado Hills community of Serrano, many residences were built with dual pipes — a water supply for the household and recycled water (purple pipes) to irrigate exterior landscapes. Current requirements at our Deer Creek wastewater treatment facility require us to discharge a minimum of 1 million gallons per day of tertiary treated effluent to Deer Creek. This represents a significant volume of recycled water that could be used to meet the increasing recycled water demand. In fact, to meet maximum day demands in the recycled water system, the district has to supplement the recycled water supply with potable water. The district is actively pursuing termination or reduction of the discharge requirement to Deer Creek.

Another key issue identified was future regulatory requirements. This is an uncertain area for the district but one that we monitor and engage closely. Things like salinity, metals concentrations, and other contaminants may require additional advanced treatment processes in the future. We actively engage in the stakeholder process by writing letters during the public review period of proposed legislation and policies, and providing testimony at hearings of the State Water Resources Control Board. When we don’t like the outcome of the regulation and resulting impacts to our wastewater facilities, we have been successful with using science-based approaches to mitigate some metal and other constituent limitations. Also, we have written and sponsored legislation that reduces regulatory impacts on the district. These actions taken together have saved millions of dollars in wastewater facilities that otherwise would have had to be built to be in compliance with our discharge permits.

The third key issue addressed in the plan is aging infrastructure. The district’s collection system dates back to the 1960s and pipelines and lift stations are reaching the end of their useful life. The district initiated a condition assessment program, the results of which were included in the WWFMP, that better allows the district to understand and incorporate the necessary repairs to maintain a safe and operable conveyance system. 

Q: Can you talk a bit more about how the plan takes into account future growth?

A; It’s important to remember that capacity building in the WWFMP is based on the county’s approved General Plan; it is dependent on actual growth and demand and is scalable. The plan will be updated regularly to ensure planned projects are right-sized and right-timed to meet any approved growth.

Q: What are the next steps for implementing the WWFMP?

A: All of the capacity-related facilities included in the plan will be scheduled to correspond with actual development in the El Dorado Hills and Deer Creek collection systems. Repairs to and replacements of existing facilities are prioritized and folded into our regular capital improvement planning process. Those are the real drivers of the plan.

Q: How does a “roadmap” document like the WWFMP help the district and its customers?

A: The WWFMP, along with the IWRMP, provides a comprehensive plan to address the district’s evolving needs. This includes issues of capacity, with treatment facilities and conveyance infrastructure sized to accommodate growing populations. It addressses the future role of the district’s recycled water program and describes how the recycled water is a valuable water supply for the district since it offsets potable water demands. It addresses the reality of maintaining the aging assets we have — it gives us a framework within which we can prioritize projects based on critical condition levels. It also allows us the flexibility to regularly update the plan to account for changing priorities — to coordinate system improvements with recommended replacement activities and create an affordable and sustainable capital improvement program. This flexibility will ensure the district maintains a safe and secure and right-sized collection and treatment system now and into the future.

To read the 2013 Draft Wastewater Facilities Master Plan, go to the EID website document library and look under “Master Plans.”

Mary Lynn Carlton

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