AQMD Issues Violation To Local Water District

The Mission Viejo Dispatch recently referenced the comments of Joel Bleth, President of Solarbees,  posted on the No Solarbee website on November 9, related to the water problems on Oso Reservoir.   The entire article is posted as follows.

by MissionViejoDispatch.com on November 19, 2009

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the Santa Margarita Water District on November 11 for causing a public nuisance as a result of the numerous complaints received due to odors from Oso Reservoir.

In a 6-page report dated yesterday, the AQMD reviewed its findings regarding the odor and the remediation efforts taken by the Water District.  Many residents contacted the AQMD.  Complaints included the odor and related coughs, throat irritation, asthma episodes and other symptoms during the period from October 28. Although recognizing the presence of sulphur compounds, including hydrogen sulfides, the report categorized health effects as “temporary:” 

Based on ambient air sampling and analysis done in the residential and commercial areas, AQMD believes that although the type and concentration of odorous compounds released from the Reservoir have caused the residents around the Reservoir some discomfort, irritation, nuisance and other temporary symptoms, the health effects should be of a transient or temporary nature and are not considered alarming or a long-term health concern.

Last week the general manager of the Santa Margarita District, John Schatz, told the Dispatch there was concern that new equipment installed in March 2008 may have contributed to problem.  Four “Solarbees” were placed in the water then for aeration, and the District wants to investigate whether they contributed to a water quality problem at the bottom of the reservoir.  A letter from the President of Solarbees, Joel Bleth, posted the Company’s view of the Oso situation on the No Solarbee website on November 9:

As president of SolarBee, Inc. I have been meaning to send you a note from time time to time. This is the first one, and it will be a short one on Lake Oso problems.

Basically, in a nutshell, you should know that Lake Oso, mentioned above, is not a “lake” in the regular sense of the word. Since 2008, instead of being supplied with fresh water as it was for years, Lake Oso now serves as a large “wastewater reuse pond” for irrigation. It now receives and discharges about 5-8 mgd of treated wastewater per day, from 2 plants, typically at < 10 mg/l of Carbon BOD, < 10 mg/l of Nitrogen, < 1 mg/l of Phosphorus.

Depending on the season and lake elevation, this body of treated wastewater can range from over 100 surface acres and 65 ft deep, to 35 acres and 30 ft deep, or anywhere in-between.

For SolarBee, Inc. this is a new, fascinating and important project, because wastewater is virtually never stored in a large and deep reservoir such as Lake Oso. In these reservoirs there can be huge problems with low oxygen throughout most of the water column, the cost-prohibitive ongoing waste of grid energy if aeration alone is relied on to solve the problems, algae bloom issues due to high nutrients as with all wastewater ponds, and the production of sulfur-based odorous compounds at the sediment which can escape at turnover.

The use of Lake Oso to receive and discharge treated wastewater, unique today, may become commonplace in the future. In California, a US leader in water resuse, only about 15% of water is being reused, and that figure needs to rise dramatically if we hope to have enough water to go around in the future. And an important part of the solution will be the knowledge to deal with water quality problems in large deep wastewater reservoirs such as Lake Oso. That’s why SolarBee machines are in Lake Oso. We have had success in hundreds of “normal” shallower wastewater ponds, and have a good chance of solving the problems in Lake Oso. In 2009, despite the November odor event, there were far less water quality problems than in 2008. And in 2010, I think even more progress can be made. [The letter was directed to stakeholders of another deep water reservoir after the Oso issue was raised]

Last night the SMWD Board of Directors met for the first time since the odor problem arose.  It determined the problem at Oso Reservoir has largely subsided as a result of numerous actions taken, and will continue to improve.  The District estimated the impact was to approximately 11,000 residents and businesses.

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Filed under Algae Bloom, Performance, Solarbees, Water Quality

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