Path to pure water

Agoura Hills likely site for new sewer-to-tap plant



The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District said it has received a permit renewal for its Tapia water reclamation plant in Malibu Canyon, a move that will open the door to construction of a $100-million water purification facility designed to turn Tapia’s reclaimed sewer water into drinking water. Negotiations are underway to build the new plant in Agoura Hills.

Since 1997, the Tapia plant has been prohibited from discharging its recycled water to Malibu Creek from April 15 to November 15 each year—except for minimal amounts to maintain creek flow and to protect wildlife. Tapia has also come under increased scrutiny for adding water-damaging nutrients to the creek

In the coming five-year permit cycle, Tapia was faced with meeting some of the toughest nutrient standards in the country, a costly proposition that forced the water district to find other ways of putting its excess reclaimed sewer water to work.

Rather than treating the water to a high standard just to dispose of it, the Las Virgenes–Triunfo Sanitation District joint powers authority proposed building a new water treatment plant that will purify Tapia’s reclaimed water to the extent that it can be safely consumed.

The venture—called the Pure Water Project—also marked the end of a lawsuit filed by the joint powers group that sought to mitigate the costly and difficult-to-meet water quality standards imposed by environmental agencies.

“When the project is complete, it will bring to a close decades of conflicts pertaining to the discharge of surplus recycled water to Malibu Creek, while making beneficial use of a valuable resource that adds to the region’s water supply portfolio,” said David Pedersen, Las Virgenes Water District general manager and joint powers chief.

“We view the new permit as a win-win for area residents and the environment,” he said.

Pedersen said the joint powers is seeking state and federal assistance in the form of grants and low-cost loans to build the $100-million treatment plant at a site being considered in Agoura Hills.

Through the use of long-term financing and loans, grants and perhaps bonds, the increased cost to customers “will not be significant,” the group said in a statement.

While it’s not known if, or how much, local water rates will go up—consumers already are in the middle of five straight years of water and sewer price increases— the new recycling plant could save users money in the long run.

The joint powers has 13 years in which to build the new water plant.

“The 13-year window seems generous, but we will be pressed to accomplish the financing, environmental, engineering and permitting processes before a shovelful of dirt is moved to build the (water) facility,” Pedersen said.

The Pure Water, sewer-to-tap water conversion plant has been in the planning for more than a year.

John Loesing

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