After decades of planning and a design-permit-and-building process hastened by drought, Cambria’s emergency water supply project went online shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Just about a year ago, the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors declared a drought emergency and imposed Stage 3 restrictions on water use, the most severe short of running out of water altogether. The board subsequently approved designing and building the water-reclamation plant, now estimated to cost more than $9 million.
The district completed the plant under an emergency permit from the county and is now seeking a permit to operate it permanently. A consultant is preparing an environmental impact report to meet California Environmental Quality Act requirements.
Tuesday, Gail Robinette, board president, and district General Manager Jerry Gruber jointly turned two valves so a brackish blend of fresh, salt and treated wastewater drawn from under the San Simeon Creek Road site could begin to flow through a complex system of pipes, filters and treatments.
The gentle whoosh of water soon was overpowered by the thumping sound of a system pump kicking on and running steadily thereafter.
“This community has made history today,” a clearly elated Robinette said after the launch. “We came together and decided it’s much better to be proactive than to run out of water. We worked hard, all of us together, and we did it! It’s a community effort, and the board and district are privileged to be a part of that.”
She grinned widely and said, “It’s pretty darn thrilling!”
According to Adeliano Servellon, who has headed up the project for contractor CDM Smith, the treatment on those first gallons to officially enter the process should have taken about 30 minutes before the permeate water was automatically injected through a well and back into the ground for its two-month subsurface journey toward the district’s supply wells.
Some preliminarily treated water is diverted to the creek’s lagoon. Residual brine from the water-reclamation process flows to a holding pond for the lengthy evaporation procedure that’s nudged along by a series of blowers that spray the brine across the surface of the pond.
Gruber had said previously that the plan during a three-month testing period is to run the plant up to 10 hours a day, four days a week.
The board’s next meeting is set for 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.
A continued public hearing about revising enhanced water conservation measures, restrictions on the use of potable water and maximum water-use allotments are among the items on the board’s agenda.