Lessalt Water Treatment Plant holds open house

by Michael Smith, reporting for BenitoLink

Officials say upgrades will improve tap water quality for Hollister residents

The public was invited to a tour of the upgraded Lessalt Water Treatment Plant. Photos by Michael Smith.

The public was invited to a tour of the upgraded Lessalt Water Treatment Plant. Photos by Michael Smith.

Lessalt Water Treatment Poster. Photos by Michael Smith.The Hollister Urban Area Project (HUAP) team presented an open house and facility tour of the upgraded Lessalt Water Treatment Plant at Fariview and Sunnyslope roads in Hollister on April 18. The event was well attended by community members interested in the construction project and collaborative efforts of the Sunnyslope County Water District, the City of Hollister and the San Benito County Water District with their stated goal of improving tap water quality in the area.

While the Lessalt Water Treatment Plant has been in operation for many years, the upgrade to the plant was driven by increasingly stringent federal and state drinking water quality standards that require water districts to plan and execute capital improvement projects as unfunded mandates in order to meet or exceed evolving drinking water standards.

The upgrades to the surface water treatment plant include the additions of new pre-treatment disinfectants which, through pilot studies, proved effective in neutralizing and oxidizing organic material and pathogenic organisms in the raw water that would otherwise react to chlorine (free chlorine) after water treatment thereby producing trihalomethanes (THM’s) which are a known carcinogen. Other upgrades include new Granular Activiated Carbon (GAC) filtration vessels and Greensand filtration vessels to remove iron and manganese from the source water sedimentation deposits inherant to the San Justo Reservoir, which may cause aesthetic water quality problems – reddish and/or blackish staining of sinks/bathtubs or laundry – when the mineral elements precipitate out and oxidize from otherwise untreated drinking water, according to Rob Hillebrecht, assistant engineer with the Sunnyslope County Water District and Dale Rosskamp, deputy district engineer with the San Benito County Water District.

According to statements made by the three water agencies, this marks the first major step in bringing improved water quality and water reliability to the Hollister Urban Area. The Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP) is a collaborative effort approved in 2013 between the City of Hollister, Sunnyslope County Water District and San Benito County Water District to improve drinking water quality, protect the groundwater basin and help meet state mandated wastewater discharge requirements.

The managers for the three agencies agreed that the Lessalt Upgrade Project is a major milestone in a long-term effort to improve water quality to drinking water customers and for the protection of  local groundwater basin. Upgrading the Lessalt Water Treatment Plant allows reliable treatment of 2 million gallons of water per day (mgd). This is the first step in a long-range plan that has been in the works for many years.

The $6.8 million project was completed on schedule and within the original budget. Imported surface water is treated to drinking water standards at the Lessalt plant and distributed to Sunnyslope and the City of Hollister customers. According to Jeff Cattaneo, district manager/civil engineer for the San Benito County Water District, the district was successful in applying for and obtaining approximately $4.1 million from state water grant funding resources to help defray construction costs of the project and minimize the impact of adjusting water rates to support this major infrastructure capital improvement project for the benefit of Hollister area water customers.

The next phase of the HUAWP is the construction of the West Hills Treatment Plant, which will treat up to 4.5 mgd of imported surface water. Taken together, officials say the Lessalt and West Hills plants will increase the quality of drinking water throughout the Hollister area. It will allow the City of Hollister and Sunnyslope to decrease their pumping of lower quality groundwater, allow water recycling for local crops and assist the City of Hollister and Sunnyslope County Water District in meeting State Water Quality Board wastewater discharge requirements.

The use of imported surface water will also reduce the mineral content in local drinking water, reducing the need for water softeners in most areas and contributing to longer life for many household appliances.

For more information about the Hollister Urban Area Water Project, click here, call Shawn Novack or Harry Blohm at 831-637-8218, or email them at: info@hollisterwaterproject.com.

Michael Smith has worked in the water utility industry for 25 years and contributed this report to Benito Link.