The community of Keyes celebrated the installation of a new water treatment system designed to remove arsenic from the town’s drinking water supply.
The project has been a long time in the works, said Ernie Garza, general manager of the Keyes Community Services District (KCSD). On Saturday morning the district showed off its new system of tanks and pipelines at 4290 Jessup Road and offered tours. The new system will be in operation shortly.
Keyes’ problems with unacceptable high levels of arsenic arose in late 2006 when the district was issued a Notice of Non-Compliance from the California Department of Public Health. Garza said that the quality of Keyes’ drinking water had not deteriorated but the Environmental Protection Agency had lowered the maximum allowable contaminant level for arsenic from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. Three of four Keyes wells were testing at 12 to 14 parts per billion.
The project involved construction of water transmission lines, well upgrades and building the Arsenic Treatment Facility. A seven-day test run of the system showed arsenic numbers were well below eight parts per billion. KCSD has been given approval to start a required 30-day commissioning test for the facility while providing treated water to residents.
Dealing with non-compliance became a major headache for district officials. The firm of Tuckfield & Associates was hired to complete a comprehensive water rate study in 2012 to ensure KCSD had enough financing standing to seek a loan to build a treatment facility. The study revealed that district water rates had to be increased by 26.8 percent to qualify for an $8 million loan from the State Revolving Fund to pay for most of the project.
An engineering firm designed and produced construction plans while KCSD secured a $3 million grant and a 30-year interest-free $5.1 million loan from the state. However, by the time the facility design and construction plans were submitted to and given approval by the state, a few years had passed and the construction costs had risen from $8.1 million to $14.9 million – exceeding the district’s financial ability. The district’s salvation came by consolidating with four private mobile home parks and the Faith Home Teen Ranch located outside of district boundaries whose private wells were also in violation of the federal arsenic standards. The outside owners agreed to partake in the project in exchange for financial support to receive water. The consolidation of private water systems with KCSD system made the treatment project eligible for Proposition 1 grants as a severely financially disadvantaged district. Proposition 1, passed by the voters in 2018, authorized a general obligation bond to provide monies for loans, grants and projects.
The consolidation of the water systems increased the project costs to $23.4 million which covered engineering, design and construction of water transmission lines to the mobile home parks, upgrades of wells and the construction of the treatment facility. Consolidation also allowed KCSD to snag a $20 million grant and a $3.4 million 30-year interest-free loan from the State Revolving Fund.
Garza said the board’s decision to consolidate was wise since it only had to borrow $3.4 million instead of the original $5.1 million.
“This resulted in a win-win situation for the district as well as for the mobile home parks and teen ranch,” he said.