GSD Updated on Wastewater Treatment Plant Issues

The Garberville Sanitary District Board of Directors heard a report about a problem at the district’s wastewater treatment plant, voted to buy a new truck, and approved a rate study at their regular meeting on March 22.

District operations manager Ron Copenhafer gave a report about an ongoing problem with high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) test results at the wastewater treatment plant.

Copenhafer explained that BOD is a measurement of the rate that oxygen is depleted in the water. He said that if a treatment plant discharges water that has a high BOD, it is not good for the receiving waters.

The district’s North Coast Regional Water Board limit requirement is 30 milligrams per liter (mg/L) on any one day, and the monthly average limit requirement is 15 mg/L. He noted the district is only required to conduct one test a month.

Copenhafer reported that district staff has determined through testing that the ponds and wetlands of the waste treatment plant are performing as they are supposed to, with BOD measurements decreasing as they move through the ponds. But when the water goes through the disinfectant chamber — the last step before being discharged into the percolation ponds by the river — the BODs increase, Copenhafer explained. He said staff will clean the disinfection chamber completely to try to alleviate the problem, and check the condition of a generally-unused bypass line that goes to the disinfection chamber.

Copenhafer commented that the state BOD requirements were low for the type of wastewater treatment plant the district uses.

District general manager Ralph Emerson said the next step in dealing with the problem will be to work with the State Water Board to have the district’s BOD limit requirement increased.

Copenhafer said the district has been closely monitored for discharges into the river since the new treatment plant was built.

“Plus, we do not directly discharge in the river, so we are not directly affecting a water of the United States,” Copenhafer said.

Copenhafer added that the district’s test results for Total Suspended Solids (TSS), which are solids that do not settle out, are not a problem.

Other Business

The board approved a motion to conduct a rate study. Emerson said that since the district is considering the addition of a third rate tier for high water users, a Proposition 218 process will be required and the first step is a rate study. Emerson noted that a rate study would be required if the district applies for grants, which he said later they are thinking of doing to reroute the main water line at Bear Canyon, develop the Miller Street well, and replace and enlarge two district water tanks.

The district directed Emerson to proceed with hiring either Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) or the California Rural Water Association to conduct a rate study at a cost not to exceed $3,500.

The board approved the purchase of a new utility truck for the district, a 2016 Ford F-250 with harbor service body, at a cost of $42,203 from Harper Motors in Eureka. Board member Rio Anderson suggested Emerson look into a service warranty.

Emerson reported that he worked with Cal Fire to analyze the amount of district water used in the 2015 fire season and determine a price for it. Emerson said that it was significant that during a drought year, when customers were conserving water, Cal Fire was using approximately 30,000 gallons of water per day that was treated but not reported as consumed.

Emerson and the board have been working their way through policies and ordinances to update them. This month the board approved new wording to clarify the policy section on cross connections and backflow device requirements.

They also approved an abandonment charge, but proposed some more changes to Emerson’s suggested wording for an annual fee for discontinued service in the district’s water ordinance.