Keeping domestic water from contamination - natural, accidental or intentional – is a top priority.
“Once it enters the treatment plant it stays enclosed until it comes out of the customer’s faucet,” noted Jeff Shields, South San Joaquin Irrigation District general manger.
The SSJID operates the Nick DeGroot South County Surface Water Treatment Plant a half mile or so from the base of Woodward Reservoir 16 miles east of Manteca. The treatment plant supplies water to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy to augment ground water.
Concerns about the safety of drinking water surfaced in June when a drunken man climbed a fence and emptied his bladder into one of Portland’s open reservoir that stored treated water for domestic use. Portland, which has five of the remaining 30 uncovered treated water reservoirs in the country, immediately drained the reservoir. Although the danger was minuscule at best, it was done to keep from rattling the public’s nerves about the purity of the drinking water supply.
The SSJID treatment plant on Dodds Road falls under Homeland Security standards put in place in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2011. There are security cameras, gates secured by punch codes, sign-in requirements and more. It is all designed to prevent terrorists from introducing a toxic chemical agent into the drinking supply.
The SSJID plant, though, employs the latest high-tech protections designed to clean foreign substances from water as it is treated. It is state-of-the-art ZeeWeed member fibers that produces some of the cleanest water on the plant.
The water treated originates high in the Sierra on the Stanislaus River watershed. Before it reaches the plant, all sorts of bacteria and animal droppings have gotten mixed in the river water.
The first step to maximize the integrity of the water is the intake for the treatment plant in Woodward Reservoir. It is on the upper end of the reservoir with barriers blocking it off from the rest of the lake to avoid contamination from gasoline used in water craft and such that could overtax the system accelerating the need to replace costly treatment components.
The technical process used to treat the water would fascinate a room full of engineers for a week.
The most simplistic way to describe how it works is that water initially coming in goes through a series of baffles that causes the solids - dirt particles and such - to float to the top of a series of open concrete tanks. The water then passes through numerous panels that each contains 25,000 strands of extremely thing membrane fibers that snag bacteria and viruses. From there the water is further treated and then sent to a storage tank awaiting its journey westward to faucets in the three cities.