Last Thursday evening two engineers from Brelje & Race, Consulting Civil Engineers out of Sonoma County, met with a group of local folks calling themselves the Boonville Planners. The engineers are Dave Coleman and Jack Locey; Mr. Coleman spoke on the prospective sewer system and Mr. Locey on drinking water. Members of the local group include Valerie Hanelt and Kathleen McKenna of the Community Services District, the Boonville Planners, Joy Andrews, AVCSD manager, Karen McBride from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and Dave Jensen of the California Environmental Health Department.
The group of Planners, headed up by Valerie Hanelt and Kathleen McKenna, began this process in 2014 with the idea that perhaps Boonville was ready for clean water and a better solution to waste water than individual septic systems. Initial community meetings, the first in May of 2015, gauged interest in a water and sewer system. Hanelt first visited the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento in March of 2016. McKenna and Hanelt educated themselves on earlier attempts at such a system. Talked about since the 50s, the last attempt took place in the 1980s. Then they contacted the regional water board in Santa Rosa and kept following leads. The found that Proposition 1 water bond funds were available for construction, but more importantly, for planning municipal water and sewer systems.
The next step was to test ground water systems (private wells) anonymously. The results: many of the wells in downtown Boonville are contaminated. Some of these by bacteria from septic systems/leach fields, some by petroleum from old service stations and some from sites such as the CalTrans yard and the old bus barn. Buttressed by the water test results, the decision was made to move ahead and explore more ideas about water and sewer for Boonville.
Engineer Locey started off by bringing the group up to date on the progress so far. The proposed water district is from Hutsell Road in the south (near the intersection of Highways 128 and 253) down Highway 128 and then over to Meadow Estates (the Airport Estates subdivision) in the north covering approximately a block on the east and west sides. In the proposed district there are 224 parcels, with 186 private wells currently in existence. Mr. Locey indicated that there are at least four public water supplies in the area now, including the two schools, Meadow Estates and some of the restaurants. It was noted that the high school water system is not strong enough to suppress a fire if one should start there.
The Water: How much? Where?
How much water does such a proposed community system need? The engineers looked at communities such as Hopland, Laytonville, Middletown and Upper Lake to get an idea of the answer. Some are bigger and some smaller, but it helps in providing an idea of average usage. Therefore, maximum demand is estimated at between 250,000 and 350,000 gallons per day (this includes large events at the Fairgrounds). This demand will likely require multiple well sites.
As of this date, four existing well locations have been identified for testing. Drilling test wells is expensive, so these information-only tests are being done in place of that. Engineers are working with landowners for these tests. These test wells will not be the actual source wells when and if the project moves ahead. One question that came up was about who would own the wells, once in production? The water district will own the wells; landowners will be compensated. There will be no taking of land (eminent domain). Additionally, a very good storage site has been located on the south end of town, with enough elevation that pressure will be good all the way down to the north end of the district. The actual wells for the Municipal water can be sited outside of the service area with water pumped to the elevated storage site.
The Water: What Will It Cost?
What costs or rates would individual parcel owners face? The answer was that it's too soon to tell because a lot depends on what the design of the system ends up being, how much outside funding there is and so forth. The State would underwrite a large percentage of the infrastructure costs. To satisfy the State’s definition of "affordable" and because Anderson Valley is considered a "severely disadvantaged community" (economically), the costs borne by the parcel owners must be kept very low, not more than 2% of monthly income.
It is likely that the County will allow continued use of existing private wells, so long as back-flow devices are in place; final say on this and on who all will pay will be up to County public and environmental health officials.
Finally, Dave Jensen of Environmental Health brought to the group's attention that the State is very aware of the problems small water districts are having. This proposed system is not considered "small" (small are certain subdivisions, small businesses such as wineries — things like that). Throughout the State many of these small districts are failing due to underfunding; the State is requiring many of these to consolidate. In Mendocino County that would be difficult due to the large distances between districts.
Dave Coleman spoke next about the sewer development progress. He says they are working on a project feasibility report; the proposed district is from Hutsell Road in the south to the bridge over Anderson Creek on Highway 128 in the north (i.e., smaller than the prospective water service area), and from Robinson Creek to a block in for the east/west boundary. They have been looking at the ground water contamination studies and the topography to get an idea on how to design such a system.
Sewer: Three parts
Coleman indicated there are three parts to any system: Collection, Treatment and Disposal.
There are gravity flow collection systems, which are the most expensive; there are pump systems, where each property would have a pump on site that grinds up the effluent before sending it on its way; and there are STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping) systems, with septic (settling) tanks on each parcel that then sends the liquid effluent to the main treatment facility.
Treatment systems include a centralized system and systems with above ground and below ground treatment. The treatment center is likely to be on the south end of town somewhere, possibly near the airport. Estimated flow is about 100,000 gallons per day.
Disposal could be underground leach field disposal, which works year round, or above ground irrigation systems, which require a lagoon for the winter months. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, the above ground spraying is the least desirable for water quality; they prefer the in-ground disposal method.
Hence, the preliminary planning stage still requires work and many questions remain unanswered. The State will only fund the current needs, plus 10%, limiting growth. It is still unknown if both a water and sewer system can be accomplished. Dave Jensen made the comment that now is the time; the State is in a unique place to work with our community on this, and that may not be true in the future. There is hope that more answers will come at the next Boonville Planners meeting, sometime in the next couple of months.