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Waste of millions of gallons of water blamed on state
• City waiting for state to OK new filtration required by regulations
Smyrna Park lake
A mother and her kids take advantage of the small lake formed by days of flushing well water into Smyrna Park. The city was unable to run the water into the water system. - photo by Courtesy of Don Cool

Lots of water flushed recently from two city wells at Smyrna Park created a small temporary lake that drew young families – and also criticism from residents who took notice.

But city officials said the city’s not to blame – the state is.

Ceres resident Allen Tucker complained to the city about millions of gallons being flushed onto the park grounds at time when residents are forced to conserve. Public Works Director Jeremy Damas explained that the city is sometimes forced to waste water because of state regulations.

Don Cool, who ran down to the park to snap photos of youngsters – some with their mothers – playing in the shallow lake in a depression near Rose Avenue, said the flushing of the wells “has been going on for months.”

Damas and City Manager Toby Wells said two wells at Smyrna Park were recently retrofitted with new filtration equipment to bring down the allowable maximum contaminant levels of Trichloropropane (TCP). To ready six new tanks – where the water is actually filtered – the city had to pump water through them. Because the state has yet to give the city approval to put the water into the system the water had to be flushed as waste out into the park’s detention basin.

The city said the permit has been sitting on the state’s desk for almost a month. City Manager Wells said he is hopeful that the state gives permission and inspects the new filtration tanks this week to put the water into the system.

“If we could put it in the system we would,” said Wells. “There’s no benefit to us to run it into waste. We’re held to a standard by the state so we’re following their rules. They tell us what we can and can’t do and what water we can and can’t put in the system for citizens to drink.”

Public Works Director Damas said the new tanks are equipped with granular activated carbon “which is the best technology available to remove TCP.” 

“Because of the volume of water that we produce out of the two wells at Smyrna, we were required to install six tanks,” said Damas. “The maximum contaminant levels the state put in place for us to meet is so low that we had to install polishing tanks.”

When asked why the city started pumping water through the new tanks when the state hasn’t approved the permit amendment, Damas explained that the contractor has to install the carbon into the tanks by injecting it with water. To prevent the potential of growing bacteria in the tanks, water had to be flushed.

“Because of the heat, because of the carbon itself and there’s so much open pores in that carbon to allow anything to sit there and basically incubate. We just run water and flush it. Unfortunately until the state approves our permit amendment and does a site inspection, I can’t put the water into the water system.”

Because Ceres has a problem meeting the ever-increasing standards for TCP levels, a while back the state placed the city under a compliance order to shut down all the noncomplying wells. Damas protested, saying Ceres would be without water so the state gave permission for water from the wells to be used if the city progressed toward filtration upgrades.

The cost of the new filtering system for the two wells at Smyrna Park came to $1.3 million.                                                                                              Damas admits the water wasted amounted to about 3 million gallons over a 10- to 15-day period.

He said others beside Tucker have called but their comments focused on the swampy ground and smell of rotting grass.