The Cambrian

'Tracer test' for Cambria water project runs its course

The all-important “tracer test” for Cambria’s emergency water supply project on San Simeon Creek Road ended at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 29, according to an email sent Tuesday to services district directors by Monique Madrid, administrative services officer.

As soon as water levels in the wells were recorded to provide a baseline, customers began receiving water from the district’s wells along the creek for the first time in about two months. Since the test began, the community’s sole source of potable water had been wells along Santa Rosa Creek. Madrid said the community is getting water from both aquifers.

However, updated well-level information wasn’t available at press deadline.

Because of the drought’s severity, the nearly $9 million water-reclamation plant is being built under an emergency permit from the county, but the district is seeking permission from various agencies to operate the plant permanently.

Tom Gray, the district’s public information officer, said in an email interview Tuesday, Sept. 30, that Mari Garza Bird, project manager and vice president of the consulting firm CDM Smith, said of the test “everything has gone well,” and that “more details will be available after CCSD and the state Division of Drinking Water get a chance to review the data.”

According to a question-and-answer document on the Cambria CSD's website, the project is expected to be complete by Nov. 14, followed by at least several weeks of testing, staff training and other start-up activities.

The plant is designed to extract a brackish blend of sea water, underflow groundwater and percolated, treated wastewater effluent. Once treated, it will be re-injected into the aquifer’s freshwater supply.

State water regulators require that it take at least two months for the re-injected water to flow back to the district’s wells. The tracer test was to prove that’s really how long it takes.