Is That Purple Pipe In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?
Listened to Dave Congalton's show yesterday. Pio Lombardo was on with Gail McPherson of PZLDF. Lombardo and Associates (www.lombardoassociates.com) was discussing their proposal for solving several critical wastewater issues for Los Osos with decentralized systems. The same proposed project was written up by Jack Beardwood in this week's Bay News.
From my notes, and the paper's story, here's what I find interesting:
-- Pio's Project is a STEP collection system that filters, de-nitrifies (3 mg discharge, well below the 7 mg permitted by the RWQCB), produces very little sludge to be disposed of, treats the wastewater to Title 22 unrestricted non-potable use in a series of treatment facilites that would be below ground (Is this deja vu? Remember Tri W Version #1 was supposed to be "buried and drop dead gorgeous" before it went all bait & switchy?) and would return the nice title 22 water back to the homeowner via purple pipe to be used for landscapeing, which -- according to Pio -- represents about 50% of our water use, thereby stopping the really serious problem here in Los Osos of saltwater intrusion caused because we're already in overdraft. All this can be done for a cost of about $31,000 per property ( $31,000 x 20 year loan at ? % = per month guestimate? how's about a 30 year loan? Ka-ching! ka-ching! Start yer calculators!)
Interestingly, by locating the underground facilities throughout the town, it's possible that gravity alone could be used as a collector for some areas, i.e. if the area to be collected was well above where the treatment site was located, there would be no need for any in-tank pumps. Simply allow gravity to do the work of drawing off the wastewater for treatment.
Additionally (more deja vu) buried facilities would allow for parks to be located on top of them, so we're back (O Irony!) with some elements of Tri-W as well as the original Ponds of Avalon. In this case, X number of "pocket parks" dotted throught the community.
According to the Bay News, quoting Pio," Operation of these wastewater systems is simple, requiring little operator attention. Our current comparable facilities operate with monthly visits -- primarily to collect samples for performance monitoring. Electrical needs are predominately to operate small pumps that operate intermittently. No chemicals are needed. There is little sludge production in the treatment system -- significantly less than an activates sludge plant. Odor issues are mitigaged as there is no sludge processing and soil or carbon filters are used for air venting of treatment processes."
The Bay News also noted, "He said the treated wastewater would be available for use in watering landscaping at individual lots and it would lower homeowners' water bills as much as a half. That could be the most attractive feature of all. The town's drinking water wells are currently in overdraft." (The reduced water bills would have to be factored into the overall cost of the system. The other systems being looked at don't include a water-return component. Indeed, water costs remain an escalating issue for everyone in Los Osos and must be added onto the wastewater treatment costs for the other systems.)
And, like any STEP system, Lombardo's plan uses smaller pipe that can be laid with directional boring, thereby saving the cost and environmental disruption and damage of digging ginormous trenches in the streets. Faster, too.
Mr. Lombardo noted on Dave's show, that the "county has been professional about reviewing" his proposal. Glad to hear it.
His proposal should now be on the table for scrutiny by county engineers, the TAC, and the public. Along with the other systems being looked at.
Personally, I hope all involved will take a serious look at that purple pipe. If, indeed, this town is using 50% of it's drinking water to water its petunias, drinking water drawn from an aquifer that's already seriously in overdraft, in a basin that's now, I believe, already listed as a Level III severe water shortage area, then any system that actually can stop 50% of the pumping really needs a serious look-see.
To date, the other systems being considered have reportedly resulted in purple piping simply not being finacially feasible, due to the distances involved. Localized cluster systems may make that piping doable since, I presume, both pipes (wastewater out-purple pipe back in) can be laid at the same time. (More deja vu: The Ponds of Avalon were a STEP system and centrally located in an effort to keep piping costs low. The same economies vis a vis purple piping may be at work with decentralized cluster systems.)
Well, the county engineers will hopefully continue to be "professional about reviewing" Lombardo's proposals, and any more that are out there that can be brought to the table. Serious vettng may winnow out some for both technical and/or financial reasons, then it'll be up to the homeowners to make some key decisions when the 218 assessment vote arrives.
So, stay tuned, as ever.