City could fix waste water problem without plant upgrade
After all the recent talk about Barstow's waste water treatment facility (sewer plant), I wanted to put some facts out there that I have found through my own research. I have found that there is a simple solution to a complicated
problem.

Back in the early `80s the City of Barstow obtained a permit from the Water Board (Lahontan) allowing the city to irrigate their effluent (liquids) on two alfalfa fields, one in the Soapmine Road area and the other just to the west of the treatment facility. The permit ordered the City of Barstow to drill monitoring wells in the vicinity of the fields, and the wells were to be used for monitoring the quality of the ground water. One of the many things that were to be monitored were nitrate levels.

The ground water under the field in the Soapmine Road area began showing elevated nitrate levels in the early `90s and quarterly groundwater reports continued to show elevated nitrate levels over the next decade. In 2004 the Water Board issued the City of Barstow a Cease and Desist order because of the elevated nitrate levels in the groundwater, and because of the elevated levels of nitrates in the effluent leaving the waste water facility, which contaminates the groundwater.

The Cease and Desist order gives the City of Barstow until July of 2009 to find a way to bring the nitrate levels down in the effluent. It in no way orders the City of Barstow to build a new waste water facility or to upgrade their current technology or to upgrade the current wastewater facility. It only orders the city to bring the nitrate levels down.

The current waste water facility has the equipment and the technology to bring the nitrate levels down. It is called extended aeration. It is advertised on Aquarion's website. Extended aeration is commonly used by wasterwater facilities, and it takes nitrates out of the effluent. The problem with the extended aeration at Barstow's facility is that it is missing a recycle pipe and that the blowers (which are already there) aren't working properly. This can all be corrected for an estimated cost of $300,000, which is a far cry from HDR's cost of $30 million or MicroMedia's cost of $15 million. If the recycling pipe were installed and the blowers were fixed the Cease and Desist order would be lifted and the City of Barstow would not be under a deadline and would not be facing up to $10,000 a day fine from the Water Board if the deadline were not met.

If the city were to make these simple changes now and still wanted to upgrade the facility the recycle pipe and blowers could and probably would be used in the upgrade. However, if the city were to get out from under the Cease and Desist order, the need for the upgrade would go from a "Have to" to a "Want to" situation, and they would need the taxpayers' support.

I hope the simple solution comes to light soon. Not only so that the city could get out from under the Cease and Desist order, but because it would save the taxpayers of Barstow a lot of money.

If anyone would like to do their own research you can find the Cease and Desist order at www.waterboard.ca.gov. For information on the treatment facility go to www.AquarionOps.com

Christina Byrne Barstow