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Some concerns about recycled wastewater

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POSTED May 27, 2014 1:06 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

On May 9, the Manteca Bulletin featured a front page article (“Residents leery of recycled water”) which outlined some citizens concerns about Manteca’s treated wastewater’s possible relocation to South Manteca and the impacted treated water will have on neighboring farmland and home-use wells.

It’s important that issues such as salinity, infiltration of underground water tables, and potentially negative consequences on domestic and irrigation uses be addressed at public workshops. These workshops would lend credence to the city’s intended studies of the reclaimed water use master plan by including and tackling citizens’ concerns and transparently answering any questions that are raised. It would be best if such workshops were held in the evening (perhaps 7 p.m.) to encourage better public attendance. Workshops or informational meetings held at 9 a.m. or in the early afternoon while convenient for city staff, automatically restrict public attendance and input by excluding those unable to take time off from their jobs to be present.

Some of the options for treated wastewater releases are “creating possible wetlands in conjunction with the Trails of Manteca neighborhood (west end of Woodward Avenue), “diverting the water to the South San Joaquin Irrigation District for farm uses,” and disposing of it on 417 acres of farmland (city owned).  . . along Hays Road.” Here are some questions: If wetlands are created, will the marshy, standing water serve as a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and, is so, how will this hazard be mitigated? If SSJID designated recycled water for farm uses, will farmers know which of their irrigation supply is co-mingled or exclusively treated wastewater and will such water go on food crops or crops for animal consumption that indirectly affect humans (dairy cows or cattle?) If the city “disposes” the treated water on its 417 acres what will this do to the underground aquifers of neighboring wells and crop irrigation? Will possible salt buildup result in these neighbors facing the added expense of drilling deeper wells to avoid salinity problems? Although not apart of the affected area south of Manteca, I can still recognize the potential dangers and realize that the city strategies must be full explained and safeguards put in place.

One reason given for relocating the wastewater releases is to allow the city to avoid future costs related to higher quality standards for releases to the Delta. By diverting some river deposits to land disposal, the city hopes to achieve this. So the city side-steps meeting higher quality treated wastewater treatment standards by dumping such water on the land rather than in the Delta. Wouldn’t we then have lower quality treated wastewater leeching into Manteca soil?

Another reason given is to facilitate converting 100 city-owned acres surrounding the existing wastewater treatment plant to entertainment zoning (the family entertainment zone gamble) supposedly increasing the value of the land in today’s prices by at least 500 percent. So the lure of big money beckons. The family entertainment zone, promoted by some city council members, definitely ties into this subject, but deserves its own separate critique and analysis.

It’ll close this letter by noting that all too often citizens’ concerns are demeaned or ignored with the dismissive label NIMBY (not in my backyard) implying that that these citizens are road blocking “progress” because it negatively impacts them. However, these citizens aren’t people who moved next to train tracks or a fire station (existing conditions) and then complained about inconveniences. These are people who have lived in, worked or farmed this area for years. It is the city that wants to change the balance, imposing a decision that could potentially have negative and costly consequences directly affecting them. Those of us living outside this area should be aware and involved. If the city council, servant of the public, brushes aside these citizens’ questions and worries and there is no public outcry, that sets the precedent to do the same, regardless of area or issue. And that should concern us all.

 

Karen Pearsall

Manteca


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