ARMONA — Odorless, colorless, crisp-tasting water as good as any bottled water was served Friday in Armona during the dedication of a new well and water treatment facility; and the Armona Community Services District board was proud and excited to say the water came straight from Armona.
“For the residents of Armona, this facility is truly transformational,” Jim Maciel, chairman of the Armona Community Services District, said.
Maciel said Armona will go from having some of the lowest quality water in the state, to producing some of the highest quality water in the state. He said tests have shown the water is non-detectable for many of the issues the water previously had.
“We’ve got some water that is every bit as good as anything in the state and better than most,” Maciel said. “The issues of color, taste and odor are going to be minimized — if not totally eliminated.”
Along with arsenic, the water in Armona deals with many other naturally-occurring and complex issues, including aluminum, iron and trihalomethanes, Maciel said.
Matt Kemp, a professional engineer and vice president of Provost & Pritchard consulting group, said it was an exciting day for him because the project has been in the works for over a decade.
“As an engineer, it’s exciting to actually see things get built that you get to work on,” Kemp said, adding it takes a lot of hard work and effort to complete a project like the well and water treatment facility.
Kevin Berryhill, the lead engineer on the project said the water in Armona was “extremely challenging.”
“It’s what some clients in the past have called ‘angry water’,” Berryhill said. “It’s not happy when it comes out of the ground and you have to do a fair bit to it to get it to where you can drink it.”
Ultimately, Berryhill said the treatment facility will not only make the water healthy, but also enjoyable to drink.
Maciel, during a quick history of the project, said prior to 1998, the water was pumped without treatment and arsenic levels sat at about 100 parts per billion. In the late '90s, he said the Environmental Protection Agency set a standard of no more than 50 parts per billion of arsenic.
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In order to comply with the new standard, Maciel said the district was able to get a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to drill two deep wells and maintain a treatment facility.
In 2006, the EPA lowered the standard for arsenic to 10 parts per billion, making the treatment facility plant obsolete, Maciel said.
After a few years and threats of fines from the EPA for not lowering the arsenic levels, Maciel said the district found and purchased the seven-acre site the new treatment facility now sits on at the corner of 14th Avenue and West Lacey Boulevard.
Maciel said it’s taken the collective effort of the district, local elected officials, engineers, and state health and water boards, among others, to get the facility off the ground.
“We strive for a common goal of delivering safe, affordable drinking water to the community,” Maciel said. “The affordability we’re still working on a little bit, but the safety in now a reality.”
Construction on the project began March 28, 2016, and includes a 900-foot deep well that is designed to be capable of producing 1,200 gallons per minute of treated water.
Kings County Supervisor Craig Pedersen spoke at the dedication and said the district had been told “no” a lot over the years, but was able to persevere though the partnerships they established.
Pedersen recalled meetings the district held where members of the community voiced their frustrations over the quality and cost of the water, and said the most important thing now was that they will have clean water.
“Again, congratulations,” Pedersen said to the crowd. “This is a huge day for Armona. The effort that it took to get this accomplished is amazing.”
Senator Andy Vidak also attended the event and presented the district with a certificate commemorating members for their hard work and dedication to the project.