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SANITATION SITUATION GROUP OPPOSES SEWAGE DISPOSAL PLAN.

Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

LANCASTER - A committee of water, business, civic and farm officials says Los Angeles County officials' plan to dispose of treated sewage by using it to irrigate thousands of acres of alfalfa isn't the best solution.

Instead, the committee members said Lancaster's sewage should be treated until it is safe for human contact and used for irrigating parks or landscaping or - eventually - for replenishing the underground aquifer, rather than creating new farm fields just to get rid of it.

``We think creating a demand for this water rather than using it to offset demand we have currently is not as good a plan as we could do,'' said Dennis LaMoreaux, Palmdale Water District general manager and chairman of the Use of Recycled Water Task Force.

At issue is county sanitation officials' controversial proposal to buy 4,100 acres along the southern edge of Edwards Air Force Base - displacing 70 homes - to create effluent-irrigated alfalfa fields. The plan has already been criticized by area residents and by Eastside school trustees, who said it will put the treated sewage a mile from Eastside School.

But sanitation officials are under state orders to do something with the 12.8 million gallons of sewage - expected to grow to 26 million gallons by 2020 - produced daily by Lancaster homes and businesses. The treated effluent now regularly overflows onto Edwards' Rosamond Dry Lake, and the Air Force wants it stopped.

The task force, formed from a larger water-policy group created at the urging of state Sen. W.J. ``Pete'' Knight, R-Palmdale, said it was pleased that sanitation officials proposed a solution to the overflows onto Rosamond Dry Lake, which the Air Force uses as an emergency landing field.

But, in a letter in response to the draft environmental impact report on the plan, the group said the county's proposal to use the treated effluent mostly to irrigate newly created alfalfa fields ``does little or nothing'' to enhance Antelope Valley water supplies.

Instead, the letter says, the sewage should be treated so it can be used for landscape irrigation or other uses, adding: ``Groundwater recharge is a potential long term benefit that should not be ignored or delayed. A groundwater recharge approach will certainly face challenges - we offer our services to prevail over those challenges and to establish a recycled water management organization that resolves issues and moves forward with infrastructure development.''

Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts, who is one of the sanitation district's three board members, said he agrees that the effluent should be treated and disinfected to the level that is safe for human contact - so-called tertiary treatment.

A small amount of Lancaster's sewage now gets tertiary treatment and is pumped to Apollo Park to fill its lake.

Adding that he has been talking with Eastside residents worried that using less-treated effluent on farm fields could spread disease and contaminate their wells, Roberts said he expects full tertiary treatment to be the final recommendation from sanitation officials.

``I'm interested in tertiary treated water all the way,'' Roberts said.

A final environmental impact report, incorporating comments from individuals and groups like the Eastside school board and the task force, is expected to be released in about two weeks.

Sanitation officials say that tertiary treatment and disinfection for all the waste is being seriously considered, though they add that using the treated effluent directly to replenish groundwater faces practical, financial and regulatory problems.

The current plan already calls for using some of the treated effluent for irrigating highway landscaping and other uses in Lancaster.

But replenishing the aquifer could be difficult, sanitation officials say, for several reasons: the ground around the Lancaster treatment plant is of a consistency into which the water would not readily percolate, suitable spreading grounds are miles away in the foothills, and state regulations are strict about injecting water into wells for storage, officials said.

The sanitation district board - comprised of Roberts, Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford and county Supervisor Don Knabe - is expected to meet in late April or early May in Lancaster to consider certifying the final environmental report. No date or time for the hearing has yet been set.

Charles F. Bostwick, (661) 267-5742

chuck.bostwick(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 5, 2004
Words:702
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