North County water upgrade on tap

The Heritage Ranch Community Services District is slated to upgrade its treatment process so its drinking water meets federal environmental standards.

The district, which serves about 3,000 North County residents near Nacimiento Lake, was notified earlier this year that a byproduct created during its disinfection process was causing the CSD to violate updated standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Though the byproduct doesn’t pose an immediate health risk, district officials say, it will require hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix.

When chlorine reacts with organic compounds found naturally in water, it produces certain acids of concern to the EPA.

“During heavy rains the level of organics can increase rapidly,” CSD general manager John D’Ornellas said of a contributing factor to the violations. Organic levels also increase when water levels are low at Nacimiento Lake — the district’s only water source — as normal levels of organic matter become concentrated, he said.

“When this happens, disinfecting efforts are intensified and more byproducts are created,” D’Ornellas said.

As of Thursday, the lake was at 42 percent capacity. Nacimiento dropped to severe lows in 2009 after three years of drought, but saw an increase in February when it retained 44 percent of its capacity, compared with 27 percent at the same time the year before.

In an effort to bring water quality back into compliance, the district’s five-member board in November unanimously approved upgrade recommendations from Fresno-based engineering firm Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group.

The treatment upgrade is designed to take the water to federal standards for disinfection byproducts and color, as well as secondary standards for iron and manganese control, D’Ornellas said.

District officials have applied for $400,000 in state funding to complete the improvements. The fixes could come as soon as summer 2011. If that money cannot be secured, the district will likely fund the project from existing water fund reserves.  

“There has been no discussion about adjusting user fees to fund the project,” D’Ornellas said. He noted that the district has a good shot at the grant money because the state places those in violation of water standards higher on the list.

Find out more

For more about the water disinfection process or proposed treatment improvements, visit www.heritageranchcsd.com or call the Heritage Ranch Community Services District office at 227-6230.