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Sunday, 29 April 2007 23:26

Water Agency Discusses Camanche Sewer Hook Up Moratorium: Not Lifted Yet

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slide11The AWA Board of directors broached a touchy subject among Camanche residents, developers and the board itself Thursday afternoon as they discussed the current waste water situation in Camanche. Agency Manager Jim Abercrombie reported that last year the Camanche Wastewater Storage Pond capacity was increased through expansion efforts. Agency crews also added sprinklers in the disposal area for increased efficiency Abercrombie said the question that arose was whether or not the improvement provided enough capacity to lift the suspension of permit applications for some property owners.

At this point staff estimates that approximately 3 acre feet of storage was added to the pond and about 2.5 acres of spray fields were added to the system. To give you an idea of what an acre foot is Manger of Engineering and Planning Gene Mancebo said an acre foot as about 325,851 gallons of water. Now, a typical home is assumed to discharge 200 gallons of wastewater into the collection system daily and the Agency assumes that it must store that water for approximately 6 months during the wet season and then dispose of that treated wastewater during approximately 6 months during the dry season. Mancebo said in theory, 3 acre feet of storage is adequate for about 27 homes. But there is a catch: staff must consider that they currently have inadequate storage and disposal capacity for the existing customers. The State requires that wastewater systems are designed for 100 year rain events which are determined by the state to be 31.1 inches per year. The state also requires that systems maintain 2 feet of freeboard in the storage reservoir which is about 6 acre feet. During the course of the analysis of the Camanche wastewater situation staff looked at the recent wet years, which included 2005 and 2006, to see how recent improvements could have helped had they been in place at that time, said Mancebo. In 2005 the total rainfall was measured at 25.54 inches and the agency spilled 900,000 gallons (or approximately 2.76 acre feet) of water at the time.

slide12 In 2006 they recorded 34.30 inches of rain and estimated a released of 3 million gallons or 9.2 acre feet of treated effluent. Since this exceeded the 100 year rain event the Agency was not fined for this spill. Mancebo point out however, that the Agency should have had additional 9.2 acre feet of storage to avoid future spills, in addition to another 6 acre feet for freeboard. Therefore, staff believes that there is not enough capacity added to allow additional connections at this time. Staff recommended to the Board on Thursday the continued suspension of applications until either adequate capacity is added to meet their requirements or a new treatment plan and disposal system is installed to provide adequate capacity, leaving about 27 property owners with plans in development in limbo, some have been waiting for years Abercrombie said that the AWA is working on potential solutions to the wastewater crisis. Staff has looked into a plant on the north end of the Camanche area on EBMUD property. He said several conversations have indicated that they may be able to purchase a 5-10 acre parcel for a treatment plant. Also, discussions with a Rancher have indicated that he may be willing to accept treated wastewater for irrigation purposes. Abercrombie stated that although it appears promising staff  has to complete analysis and if found to be adequate “it would probably take at least 2 years to get permit, engineering, and construction done before we have any additional capacity,” said Abercrombie. Also a huge concern for the board and public was who pays for the treatment plant which is guaranteed to cost millions? Abercrombie said they have a small community grant for about 2 million dollars that they will be using, as well as they are encouraging the County to apply for a separate small community grant to help offset the costs.

slide21 The Rural Utilities Service (USDA) has shown some interest in the project and grant monies may be available. “To make a long answer short we are looking at a number of financing alternatives to try to minimize the rates to existing customers because rates are already about 85-90 dollars a month,” said Abercrombie. Also the agency is going to be implementing a conservation program in the area. Director John Swift commented, “I don’t see how we can keep telling people another 2 years before we can do anything?” The entire board agreed.  Abercrombie agreed but at that the same time pointed out that regulations and compliance requirements are getting more stringent and it is just not Amador County that is facing these sort of problems. Before the meeting was opened to the public Abercrombie commented, “I know everybody is frustrated with this, but if this was done right we would have 400 acre of land disposal and a pond 3 times as big right up front. But the County didn’t require it and allowed development to occur and now we are trying to fix a problem that has been existing for many, many years.”

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