A reduction in Ramona's expected growth has led the water district to set aside plans to expand the Santa Maria Wastewater Treatment Plant for now. Instead, it plans to take a load off the system by upgrading pipes dating back to 1946 and reducing rainwater infiltration.
"Maybe we were trying to build to too-high standards," Darrell Beck, director on Ramona Municipal Water District said at Tuesday night's meeting. "It's hard for us to make plans for 100,000 people when only 50,000 may show up. I think this idea will hold us off for a while."
Engineer Michael Metts explained to the water board on Tuesday that using a dry weather model to plan for the future—instead of a wet weather model previously used—will allow them to continue to use existing facilities and still comply with the wastewater discharge permit issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).
"This is about getting a fresh set of eyes on the subject," board member Kit Kesinger told Patch after the meeting. Metts is a principal professional engineer with Dudek, an Encinitas company, who is contracted to Ramona Municipal Water District. After the meeting, he told Patch that after reading the permit he talked to a RWQCB staff member who confirmed that a dry weather model could be used.
"Using the dry weather model rather than the wet weather model really cleared things up for me," Beck said during the meeting.
Metts stressed that there was no blame to lay with anyone regarding the previous model used but that it was simply a different way of looking at things.
The water district hopes to eradicate "influent"—rainwater from down spouts and manholes, for example, which gets into the sewer—and "infiltration"—water that seeps into the ground, then into the sewer system.
"Inflow and infiltration lead to water that gets into the system that shouldn't be there," Metts told the directors. This has to be stopped."
General Manager David Barnum said, "We will need less of everything down the line if we do this."
About $100,000 of available funding will be used to analyze and reduce I&I (inflow and infiltration). Barnum said there will be no increase for ratepayers because staff will do the work. The effort is expected to take six months. Staff will use smoke detection and video cameras down manholes into the pipes to detect problem areas. Results may lead to lining of old pipes.
Planning for the proposed expansion of the treatment plant was done in 2004. Three stages of construction were planned, based on a projected 30 percent growth, which never happened, Metts said.