Debate over future of water in Pleasanton erupts as council reviews plan to treat PFAS contamination in town wells | New

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A presentation on the next steps needed to clean up Pleasanton’s $ 46 million contaminated groundwater wells turned into a larger discussion on finding regional alternatives and maintaining local control over resources. in water at the city council meeting last Tuesday.

“I thought we were going to have a conversation about the design of the contract, but it almost seems like there is a question about Pleasanton’s future as a water supplier directly,” said board member Jack Balch. before voting at the June 15 meeting.

In addition to proceeding with the final design phase of the treatment of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in wells 5, 6 and 8 of the city, the council unanimously adopted a draft “baseline report”. design ‘recently completed by a hired consulting firm. .

After discovering PFAS in the city’s groundwater supply facilities in recent years, officials have been working to resolve the issue. PFAS are synthetic chemicals found in common household items like paint and are “an emerging concern in drinking water due to their health effects,” according to staff.

Last September, the board initiated the PFAS processing process and supported a work plan that also includes the proposed project, and engaged Carollo Engineering to complete the draft design report.

A centralized treatment facility at the Operations Services Center was recommended as well as the rehabilitation of wells 6 and 8 and the replacement of well 5 with a new facility. Staff said the facility will provide PFAS treatment, disinfection and fluoridation of groundwater from the three wells, as well as room for expansion.

While granular activated carbon is the preferred form of PFAS treatment, staff said the treatment system should be designed to accommodate GAC media or ion exchange (IX) media “due to the uncertainty. regulations, media price volatility and the rapidly advancing field. Research. “

A new 18-inch pipeline to pump groundwater from Wells 5 and 6 to the Operations Service Center is also recommended, along with the rehabilitation of the on-site Well 8 facility, originally built in 1992. The report also recommended increasing the size of a 14-inch treated water tank. distribution pipeline on Santa Rita Road between Valley and Black avenues at 20 inches “to mitigate the impact of groundwater from Wells 5 and 6 entering the treated water distribution system at a new location”.

Due to its advanced age, the existing installation of Well 5 is not recommended for rehabilitation. Instead, a new facility at Amador Park called Well 9 was suggested to replace aging well 5. Well 6 would see its casing, equipment and systems that have reached the end of their useful life replaced, and then be renamed. Well 10.

The price of around $ 46 million including design, construction and support services – with final design services estimated at around $ 2.8 million and construction at $ 34.6 million – raised concerns questions from council about water prices, alternative water sources, community benefits and More.

“There is going to be a conversation about tariffs that will need to take place in the future,” Balch said. “A conversation about water tariffs in our community, so that we can facilitate a method for that, corporate fund tariffs or some type of fundraising item, if we go ahead.”

Board member Kathy Narum asked how to compare the cost of the project with purchasing additional water from Zone 7, and was told there would be an annual debt service of around $ 3 million.

“The trade-off is that if we don’t, we have to buy this water, and that water would probably have a higher cost than doing this project,” Narum said.

Mayor Karla Brown asked about the “real cost per dollar, per acre-foot for that water”.

“Because I’m looking at our operating costs and it looks like in 2019-2020 we bought $ 17 million of water in Zone 7, and we expect to buy here in the future 17 , $ 5 million, ”Brown said. “Then we’re looking at a $ 35 million project plus a total of $ 46 million, and I think that deserves a little more math to figure out.”

Brown added that the project started out as “an inexpensive water supply that we could supplement water from Zone 7”, which accounts for about 80% of the city’s total water portfolio.

“Now this becomes an extremely expensive water supply to supplement Zone 7… I think it deserves more discussion,” Brown said.

Director of utility planning Todd Yamello told the board: “It’s a two-part project for us; it’s PFAS treatment and it’s the $ 20 million you see in construction costs. We have wells, facilities that are aging, they were built in 1960, so the other part that remains is the rehabilitation of those facilities. “

During the public hearing, Zone 7 Board Chairperson Olivia Sanwong said, “Regarding the alternative plan to purchase additional water from Zone 7 instead of the the city, I think that’s something to explore. “

“The $ 4.5 million is an estimate to keep that in mind… I think it’s good to have an estimate to compare options, but that’s just it,” Sanwong said.

After Sanwong finished his comments, Vice Mayor Julie Testa said, “You suggested that the $ 4 million was only an estimate. Are you saying it would be much higher than that? ? “

“I’m not implying higher or lower, just should there be this continued exploration,” Sanwong replied. “Maybe it’s something that could be explored, it’s to get a better idea of ​​what that number might be.”

Sanwong also suggested reviewing a 2010 Alameda County study “that utility operators in the Tri-Valley plan to form and consolidate a municipal utility district to provide all water and utility utilities. sewer for the Tri-Valley “. The point was briefly brought up at a meeting last year, but “none of the other board members agreed with me, so it was not a good point to explore,” Sanwong said.

“This is something else to consider when Pleasanton considers the possibility of purchasing that 20% of Zone 7 water,” she added.

Go Green Initiative CEO and co-founder Jill Buck called to advocate for local control and warned the council not to rely too heavily on getting more water from Zone 7.

“Although we are talking about 20% of our water, that assumes that we can get as much water as we could in the past from Zone 7,” Buck said. “20% of their water is also groundwater which is found primarily within the city limits of Pleasanton, and 80% of their water comes from the State Water Project, which is fragile to say the least in many ways.”

According to Buck, Zone 7 recently discussed a transfer of water they needed “because they are only getting a small percentage of their allocation from the State Water Project this year.”

Around the same time last year, water was about $ 250 an acre-foot, but Buck said, “This year it’s $ 850 an acre-foot, and that’s because that supply is low, so the idea that we can just buy more water from zone 7 may not be able to unfold. “

Narum called the $ 46 million project a “hard figure to swallow,” but said that “at the end of the day, with debt financing and grants … it’s cheaper for residents to pay for the service. debt than paying Zone 7, even at current rates. “

“They are going to have to increase their tariffs to cover their costs of the PFAS processing plants as they are,” Narum said. “But I think there is a bigger problem here. We are talking about diversification from the drought and moving away from our wells is one less water source than we have. And to be totally dependent on zone 7 , we’re giving up some local control over our water and I don’t think that’s the way we want to go. “

Testa said the cost of the project “seems overwhelming, but I think we all recognize the importance of having control over a source of our own water, and I think we all agree that neither of us would. lose that “.

Board member Valerie Arkin said, “It’s a steep price, but I think with what debt servicing would cost us versus buying Zone 7… the cost is going to be even higher. with zone 7, and we need to fix the wells, that’s essential. “

A design consultant will be selected, followed by permission from the board to execute a deal at a future meeting. Staff will continue to monitor PFAS regulations and regional activity during the final design phase and update the board, as well as draft a financial plan for board approval.

The commissioning of the rehabilitated well 8, the new well 9, the new pipeline and the new filtration should take place by May 2024. After this date, well 5 will be permanently decommissioned and well 6 closed for rehabilitation. , with a commissioning date scheduled for December 2024.

Project costs are to be funded from the city’s capital improvement project budget.


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