ROSAMOND — Alongside heavy machinery already in use, the Rosamond Community Services District on Wednesday officially kicked off a $15 million project to revamp its wastewater treatment plant.
The revamped and expanded plant is expected to be operational in spring 2021 and will do so with a new name — The Rosamond CSD Water Reclamation Plant — to better describe its ultimate purpose.
In addition to handling the community’s wastewater disposal, the plant will recharge the underlying groundwater basin, providing additional groundwater for the District to pump.
“I think it is the best use of our waste stream,” General Manager Steve Perez said.
Perez addressed a small crowd at the plant for a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning, where construction was already evident by the adjacent large hole and backhoe.
“When considering how many people will benefit from this project, after the ultimate completion, it’s no wonder that it stands well above any other project that could serve the people of this community,” Perez said.
In addition to recognizing the officials from the District, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the project contractors on hand to mark the occasion, Perez recognized former Directors Russ Williford and Olaf Landsgaard, who supported the project but did not live to see it come to fruition.
The wastewater treatment plant project has been in the works for a couple years as a means of addressing more than one issue facing the District.
The District has been under an order from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board since November 2015 to reduce excess nitrates seeping into the groundwater from water treated to a secondary level at the wastewater treatment plant. The treated water is currently sent to evaporation ponds on-site, which have been found to be leaking.
An option to reline the ponds was deemed to be too costly, so a plan to revamp the plant was developed.
This project will take the secondary-treated effluent, run it through the somewhat modified tertiary treatment equipment to remove nitrates, then percolate the resulting water into the ground.
This is intended to not only resolve the nitrate contamination problem with the regulators, but also recharge the aquifer, allowing the District to pump more groundwater.
This recharge component will help the District meet its water source needs without the need to purchase water rights or the water itself from elsewhere, Perez said.
The 2015 court settlement which set the maximum amounts of groundwater that may be pumped from the underlying aquifer means the District saw its primary source of water cut from approximately 3,000 acre-feet per year to 404 acre-feet per year by 2024.
An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, or approximately the amount of water a typical Antelope Valley household used in one year, before the most recent drought reduced usage.
RCSD has been searching for additional sources of water to make up the difference.
The new plant is expected to recharge approximately 1,000 acre-feet annually, for which RCSD will receive “credit” to pump from the Antelope Valley Watermaster, the entity implementing the court settlement.
Perez said the average cost of purchasing water rights is $6,500 per acre-foot, meaning the groundwater recharged is valued at $6.5 million, and will provide a significant portion of the District’s water needs, Perez said.
“That’s a big chunk of what we’ll be needing,” he said.
The wastewater treatment plant project calls for increasing the higher-level treatment capacity of the plant from the 500,000 gallons per day to 1.27 million.
Once it is fully operational, the existing evaporation ponds will be cleaned of the “sludge” left behind and abandoned.
Three new percolation ponds, where the treated water will be allowed to soak into the ground, will be built as part of the project.
The approximately $15 million price will be covered primarily through borrowed funds, as well as about $5 million from the District’s reserves and $880,000 of Prop. 1 funds awarded in a grant through the California Department of Water Resources.