Report outlines San Vicente plant violations, progress

A notice of 33 violations for discharges from the San Vicente Wastewater Reclamation Facilities (SVWRF) was received in December 2008 by the Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD) from the offices of the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).

“We received a letter that reviewed the self-monitoring reports we send to the RWQCB each month,” said Alice Benson, wastewater operations manager.

Thirty of the 33 violations were for total dissolved solids (TDS) from the  San Vicente plant.

“In our reports, we indicate all the violations that have occurred during each month,” said Benson. “The RWQCB sends us back reports, but have not sent us ‘that’ letter in quite awhile, so these violations cover almost a years worth of reports.”

In May 2003, the RMWD submitted a letter to the RWQCB requesting an amendment to the requirements of the waste discharge permit for the San Vicente plant. The request was to eliminate the need for a reverse osmosis (RO) by increasing the TDS. This request was denied.

According to the RMWD, over the past two years more than 100 e-mails and a similar number of phone conversations have taken place between district staff and RWQCB. These exchanges were intended to obtain status updates and ensure that no additional information was required from RMWD in order for a new permit to be issued.

“I am a little scared about these violations,” said RMWD board member Red Hager. “They can fine the district and the people who pay that fine will be the people who live in the district.”

Benson acknowledged that this is correct.

“I responded to their letter and did not say we were not in violation,” Benson said. “I simply wanted to tell them what we would be doing in the future.”

The reverse osmosis project consists of fabrication of an RO unit, grading foundations, piping and appropriate electrical and controls. Several delays have taken place due to vendors requesting more time, interviews, proposals and the purchasing of equipment.

According to District Engineer Tim Stanton, the new Reverse Osmosis unit is supposed to be delivered next week.

“Currently there are four or five components to the system,” said Stanton. “they are doing a lot of piping to get it ready to put the system together.”

Once the product is installed it will undergo inspection for comments, suggestions and improvements to be made and verified.

“There will be training of the staff for use of the equipment and this training will take a week,” Stanton said.

Originally, the project was scheduled for completion on Jan. 1, 2009.

Since June 2007, the RMWD staff has found only three interested reverse osmosis vendors. Filtronics, Enaqua, and General Electric. Filtronics withdrew from negotiations due to water quality conflicts with their product, according to a staff report to the board. In 2008, General Electric withdrew from the project, stating its process engineers had concerns as to what the equipment configuration should consist of, and whether it will be able to meet RMWD’s expectations and discharge requirements.

The board approved awarding a contract to Enaqua with an original operational date of Nov. 7, 2008.

“Some of the delays are due to the contractors ordering and purchasing equipment from somebody else,” said Stanton. “Looking ahead three to six months, you’re making your best guess that everything is going to be delivered on time. It is pretty rare that it happens that way.”

The shop inspection of the RO unit was completed in December 2008 with a shipping date between Jan. 5, and Jan. 9. Installation and training is to be completed no later than March 30, 2009. Total paid to date is $615,640. The next payment of 30 percent is due upon delivery to the site, and a final payment of 10 percent upon successful operation.

“Will you be producing water through the RO system prior to the end of March?” asked Hager.

“That is the expectation with an allowance for weather factors,” Stanton replied.

In terms of the existing violations imposed by the RWQCB, it is Benson’s hope that, with the implementation of the new RO system, electrical, and installation of a motor control center, those issues will no longer be in violation.

“All of our electric power will come through the same motor control panel,” said Benson. “That panel was removed in anticipation of installing the new RO so we have no power in that area.”

The intent of fines issued by the RWQCB is to ensure compliance, not to impose punitive measures, she said.

“The longer you take to get this RO system in operation, that is more potable water to be given away, when we are supposed to be saving potable water,” said Hager.

   
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