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Lathrop dealing with raw sewage spills on ground
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LATHROP – How it unfolded is understandable.

Technicians performing a series of tests on the sewer system that will serve residents west of Interstate 5 tinkered with fail safes and other mechanisms in order to make sure everything was working properly.

The only problem was that it wasn’t. Lathrop’s only raw sewage screen stopped operating the way that it was supposed to. Sewage spilled and started to seep into the ground.

Even though the incident was caught early and constrained to only the treatment facility site, few – if any – residents were aware that anything went awry.

It was the second time in the last two months that raw sewage has spilled out directly onto the ground.

The accidents aren’t a result of poor technical skills or a misunderstanding of the process. Lathrop’s plant workers are trained and ready and know exactly what it is they’re doing.

But according to Roseville-based consultant Steve Beck, the issue lies in the construction of the original system itself – one that he plans on completely overhauling and transforming it from something that’s completely out-of-date to something that’s state-of-the-art.

The crux of the construction will focus building a secondary screen –the object responsible for one of the last two spills – so that the city has something to turn to in case of an emergency.

Piping, which currently doesn’t allow for a workaround between the main line that comes in and hooks up directly to the gadgets tackle the process, will be reworked. And a lined pond will be constructed next door in case of a “catastrophic” failure to allow for raw sewage to be pumped into it on an interim basis.

Not everybody was thrilled with that idea.

Councilman Omar Ornelas couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of raw wastewater simply sitting in a basin – exposed to the elements – without additional information.

“I think that this is good, but it’s not the best that we can do,” he said of the report that Beck made.

Industry standards, however, call for what it is that he’s suggesting Lathrop to install. By having a reserve screen in case something goes down (part of the reason the initial is being retired is that the owner can longer supply parts) it can easily be switched over.

The likelihood of needing to use such an emergency basin, Beck said, is extremely slim. And the use of aerators to provide oxygen that will both speed up the biological process and cut the smell, he said, is a quick and easy fix that will cut off complaints at the pass.

Councilman Paul Akinjo voiced similar concerns, and wanted to know why the city was first informed of the spills on Monday night when they happened weeks ago.

The City of Ripon uses holding ponds and aerators as part of the treatment process. Lathrop is looking to go from 750,000 gallons per day up to 1 million. Lathrop had capacity for up to 1.4 million gallons per day, but both utilize the same amount of water – roughly 300,000 gallons every day.