Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022 @ 5:18 p.m. / Infrastructure, Local Government

Crescent City Explores Potential Recycled Water Program, Decides It's Currently Not Feasible

If Crescent City could get a forgivable loan to finance the construction costs, recycling using recycled water to irrigate two of its parks could be doable, a grant-funded study found.

But engineers from Kennedy Jenks stated that unless an increase in potable water rates prompt the city to seek irrigation alternatives, it doesn’t make financial sense for the to pursue recycled water.
They suggested Crescent City revisit the issue in about 10 years.

“Recycled water requires a lot of institutional, regulatory and technical effort by city staff and consultants,” Water Resources Engineer Sachi Itagaki told City Councilors on Monday. “The city may choose to revisit recycled water feasibility in the future if the potable supply becomes severely restricted — you have a great supply from the Smith River and the groundwater basin around there.”

Itagaki and her colleagues Abbie McNomee and Ward Stover, of Crescent City-based Stover Engineering, gas a presentation to three Council members on Monday. According to Public Works Director Jon Olson, the grant came from the California State Water Resources Control Board.

“They said hey, you ought to look into recycled water,” Olson told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “I thought it was prudent to do a study (and) find out, is this something that makes sense for the City of Crescent City right now. The answer was it doesn’t make sense right now, but it might make sense in the future.”
Councilors Beau Smith and Blake Inscore were absent.

According to Olson, in addition to focusing on the wastewater treatment plant, the city’s consultants also looked at the effluent from local holders of industrial pre-treatment program permits. This included the owners of Port O’ Pints and SeaQuake Brewing Company — the city’s two beer producers — and Rumiano Cheese Company.

Based on volume and the quality of the water it discharges, Rumiano Cheese was the only one that came close to state requirements to use for irrigation, Olson said.

“We saw them as a potential for producing recycled water because the effluent is already of a high quality,” he said.

The only other significant potential source of recycled water besides the city sewer plant, Rumiano Cheese treats its effluent using ultra violet and reverse osmosis and stores in a 30,000 gallon silo, according to McNomee. The cheese factory uses about 18,000 gallons for on-site cleaning and discharges about 12,000 gallons into the city’s sewer system. That 12,000 gallons could be used as a recycled water source, McNomee said.

Crescent City’s wastewater treatment plant doesn’t currently produce recycled water but has the ability thanks to its membrane bioreactor system, McNomee said.

In figuring out who would use that recycled water for irrigation, Sachi and McNomee mentioned schools, churches, cemeteries and public parks.

Crescent Elk Middle School, Joe Hamilton Elementary School and St. Joseph Catholic School could be three beneficiaries of recycled water, McNomee said. Crescent City Church of the Nazarene and New Life Community Church could also be potential users, though their irrigation demands are low, McNomee said.

McNomee added that they spoke with Del Norte Unified School District representatives about using recycled water, but were told they’d rather stick with potable water for irrigation.

“We stuck with a focus on Beachfront Park and Peterson Park because of their proximity to the water source and feasibility,” McNomee said.

Rumiano effluent was also looked at as potential irrigation source for Peterson Park, she said.

According to McNomee, building distribution lines, storage tank and an irrigation system linking recycled water from the sewer plant to Beachfront Park would cost an estimated $573,000. The includes installing piping, pumps, a storage tank and retrofitting the irrigation system at the park. It also includes contingency and energy usage, she said.

Irrigating Peterson Park with recycled water from Rumiano Cheese would cost an estimated $183,000, McNomee said. Like the Beachfront Park system, this project would include installing a distribution main, storage tank, a pump system and retrofitting Peterson Park’s irrigation system. Planning, design and permits would also cost extra, McNomee said.

To do this project, Crescent City would have to draft an agreement with Rumiano Cheese Company, Itagaki said. The cheese company would have to get a general waste discharge permit and a Title 22 engineering report.

As for financing a project, Itagaki said some communities set a separate recycled water utility rate to pay for construction, operation and maintenance. There’s also short-term and long-term bonds, though because the proposed projects were small they likely wouldn’t be a good choice for Crescent City, Itagaki said.

The best option Crescent City currently has is low-interest loans through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership that provides low-cost financing for water quality infrastructure projects.

Itagaki said for disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities those loans can be forgiven.

“We spoke with (State) Water Resource Control Board staff and confirmed that Crescent City would be eligible for forgivable loans,” she said. “Therefore, we think that’s one of the best options for the city.”

Crescent City Mayor Jason Greenough, Mayor Pro Tem Isaiah Wright and Councilor Ray Altman accepted the report without questions or comments.

City Manager Eric Wier said the actual report will come back before the City Council for official adoption at a future meeting.


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