Tuesday, August 09, 2005

AmCan: No wasting wastewater

August 9, 2005

AmCan: No wasting wastewater

By DAN JUDGE, Times-Herald staff writer

AMERICAN CANYON - "Waste not, want not" is an adage the city takes seriously - even when it comes to wastewater.

The city will be throwing a party today to celebrate the inauguration of its new recycled water distribution system and a delivery to its first customer - Green Island Vineyards.

When the network of distinctively colored purple pipe is completed, it will eventually be used to irrigate city parks, landscaping and agricultural fields throughout American Canyon's service area.

The new system could save the city 1,500 acre feet of potable water per year - or the equivalent of the supply used by 750 average homes - according to the engineering consultant on the project.

"That level would make it the second-largest water recycling program in Northern California," said Mary Grace Pawson, a project manager with the engineering firm Winzler & Kelly. The largest is in San Jose, she added.

In honor of the 130,000 gallons of drinking water the Green Island Vineyards contract will conserve each day, the city is holding an ice cream social from 3 to 5 p.m. today at the wastewater treatment plant at 151 Mezzetta Court.

Irrigating wine grapes or athletic fields with water that used to be in someone's toilet or bathtub is a concept that many find unappealing, but Pawson insists that the process is based on sound science and conservation principals.

"The bacteriological quality mimics drinking water and there are no public health effects associated with drinking the water," she said. "The use has been approved for 30 years. There is a long track record of using this kind of water."

The $12 million system also will keep excess wastewater out of the Napa River and provide American Canyon and its customers with a drought-defying, relatively cheap water supply, Pawson said.

"They're just augmenting their available water supply, which is always a smart thing to do in California," she said.

The city currently treats 234,000 gallons of wastewater every day, discharging it to a constructed wetlands area and eventually the Napa River.

Recycled water is reclaimed during the process of treating "used water" from the sewer system, which comes from sinks, showers, bathtubs, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers.

The sewer system also collects water from storm runoff that contains substances that wash off roads, parking lots and rooftops.

When properly treated, the water can be reused for irrigation, industrial processes and ground water recharge.

The wastewater treatment plan uses a state-of the-art membrane filtration system that removes solids and pollutants, while a biological agent is used to eat the waste material and clean the water.

American Canyon operates its recycled water system under a permit issued by the California Department of Health Services and is regulated by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Nevertheless, the recycled water system still has its skeptics and one of them is American Canyon Mayor Cecil Shaver.

While he said it's a relief to finally have the system up and running, he still questions the water quality and why the state doesn't want it in the Napa River.

"I still have the concerns I always had," Shaver said. "If it's OK to put it in the parks, why isn't it OK to put it in the river? They never really answered that question."

Even so, he sees the definite upside of conserving some of the city's potable water from the North Bay Aqueduct for higher uses.

"The state can severely cut us back in drought years," Shaver said. "Then we have to go out to find other water and pay for it."

- E-mail Dan Judge at UBDJudge@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6831.

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