LEMOORE — After a seven-year battle with contaminants, Lemoore is moving toward a solution.
The city of Lemoore’s water has not been in compliance with the state's drinking water by-products, specifically because of total trihalomethanes (TTHM), standards since 2011.
Currently, the city draws water from 10 wells, mixes the water from some of the wells together and treats the water with chlorine all to reduce the natural amount of arsenic in the water.
The combination of the chlorine with other natural compounds in the water creates TTHM, which is carcinogenic. The city and the state agree that the level of TTHM in the water here is still safe to drink, but also want to eliminate it.
Nathan Olson, Lemoore’s city manager, told the Sentinel last Friday about the upcoming steps for the water treatment, the hurdles the city has to go through and the hope for when residents can see clean water.
The treatment plan involves building new treatment centers at a few of the current wells.
Comparing Armona's water treatment
Olson, acting public works director Frank Rivera, utility manager John Souza, engineers with the region's California water quality control board drinking water division and representatives from Granger Water Specialties met Wednesday to go over the method Armona Community Services District uses to treat its water.
The new treatment plan for Lemoore would be similar yet different from the way Armona Community Service District treats water at its new well site.
Armona uses sodium manganate as an oxidizer instead of chlorine like Lemoore currently does. Armona’s water is then treated with another chemical and then passed through several different layered filters. Then the water is moved to a storage tank and treated with chlorine.
Olson said that the way Lemoore has treated water is to get it out of the ground, chlorinate it a lot and then send it out.
Lemoore’s plan is to use ozone to break down the total organic carbon before using chlorine. Then they plan to pass the water through a few filters and then through an ion exchange and then treat it with chlorine.
The new process will lower the amount of organic carbon and the amount of chlorine used so there will be significantly less TTHM, Olson said.
The drinking water division expects Lemoore to be in compliance with state standards by Oct. 30, per the extension they gave from the deadline last year.
Olson said that he has made bringing good quality drinking water to the city his priority.
Carl Carlucci, the regional engineer with the state water board, said arsenic is one of the biggest natural contaminants in the region. He also said that the health risks for consuming TTHM typically do not occur unless a person consumes approximately 8.5 cups of water every day for 70 years.
In 2006 the Environmental Protection Agency changed its standard for allowable amounts of arsenic in the water from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb.
To lower the amount of arsenic, Lemoore added chlorine to its water. The amount of chlorine used in combination with the other natural organic carbons in the water created an issue with the amount of TTHM in the water. TTHM is a by-product of the reaction between the natural carbons from the ground with the chlorine.
The new treatment facility for Armona has been operating for around six months. Armona has also struggled with drinking water quality for years, but has been in compliance with the state's standards for drinking water since the use of the new facility.
The new facility costs more than Olson has estimated for Lemoore’s project.
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A large price driver with Armona’s $9-million facility was the fact that it dug a new well and built a building. Armona also had to purchase the property and a private well for initial testing. Armona spent about $1.8 million on the well and construction of the building.
Lemoore’s project will be adjusting existing wells' treatment plants, which should keep the cost of the project from being so high. Not all wells have treatment plants. The city also already owns the land.
Current water rates for Armona after implementing its new facility are $5.90 per 100 cubic feet of water, or approximately 750 gallons, said Jim Maciel, chairmen of the Armona Community Service District board.
Maciel said that Armona has one of the highest water rates in the state and is working to potentially lower it next year after conducting studies.
Lemoore is currently going through an annual rate change with the last rate hike scheduled for 2020. Currently, for a residential, single-family unit the meter and first 700 cubic feet of water are $17. After use of the initial 700 cubic feet of water, users in residential, single-family units pay $1.10 per 100 cubic feet of water.
“It is just getting us and the state to agree on a treatment system,” Olson said.
In just under 30 days, the city needs to get approval from the state water board for the proposed treatment. Then it needs to get its environmental study in accordance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) assessed, which can take from 30 days to six months.
Olson is confident they will be approved in both instances. He said if the CEQA, which could take most of the time, does not come back in the city's favor, then they will adjust whatever needs adjusting but the chances of this happening are slim.
"I've never had a CEQA get kicked back yet," Olson said. "We don't anticipate any problems with it."
In the meantime, he said the plan is to move forward with enacting the plan in certain ways. Olson said they can get the engineering done and order the parts. The parts could take up to four months to be received in Lemoore.
If the CEQA decision comes before the sixth months and they get working right after the parts arrive, Olson said they should be able to make their state-appointed deadline for compliance on Oct. 30.
Council's study session
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Olson and the Vice President of Carollo Engineers, Richard Pyle, gave a presentation on alternative ways the city could take to develop new treatment facilities. Carollo Engineers is consulting the city on the development process.
The city has already begun the process of bonding $29 million to fund the project.
The presentation given at council was one of the ways Olson is working to save the city money on this project.
Pyle’s presentation focused on two methods that could save the city money. The methods are what he called the lump sum design-build and the progressive design-build. Both methods focus on having the designer and contractor be on the same path from the beginning. The difference between the two methods is that with the lump sum, the plan is included in reasons to pick a particular contractor.
Pyle said more traditional ways of development include hiring a designer and then later hiring a contractor.
Since it was a study session item there was no action taken by the council.