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Zone 7 board approves new water rates, moves ozonation project forward

Residents raise concerns about scope, cost of water treatment project

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The Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors approved an initial environmental review document for a Del Valle ozone filtration project and the agency's 2018 water rates during a three-hour meeting Wednesday night.

Spirited discussion around customers' water bills took center stage, with a handful of speakers voicing the concern that the ozonation project was too expensive and would ultimately lead to higher rates for customers to cover project costs.

Staff and board members, however, said the project -- which currently has a projected cost of $38-40 million and $1.1 million per year in maintenance -- is fundamental to ensuring the safety of water for locals and generations to come.

"We're the last of the Mohicans to use this technique," board member Dick Quigley said during the meeting in Livermore. "It's proven successful. And we need it for our kids and our grandkids."

The purpose of the ozonation project is to enhance the water quality by disinfecting and treating cyanotoxins at the existing Del Valle Water Treatment Plant. The proposed project would include the construction of new facilities like an ozone generation building, contactor structure, new chemical facilities and storage, a new utility water pump station and some new impervious area.

According to a memo by Tami Church, assistant water resources planner, the ozonation project has been included in Zone 7's capital improvement program for several years.

In 2008 and 2009, a consulting firm started evaluating the use of ozone as a disinfectant and as a way to improve the water quality at the Del Valle and Patterson Pass water treatment plants.

In 2015, after cyanotoxins were discovered at Lake Del Valle, the consultants completed another study on the best treatment for cyanotoxins and found that ozone use was the best manner available.

In May 2016, the Zone 7 board awarded a contract to CDM Smith to design the Del Valle ozone system, pending compliance with state environmental law.

A draft initial study and mitigated negative declaration (IS/MND) was prepared, with mitigation measures identified in areas of potential significant impact: air quality, biology, cultural resources, geology/soils, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology/water quality and tribal cultural resources.

The board received no comment letters during a 30-day public review period, and so the final IS/MND remained unchanged from the draft version. This document is what the board approved Wednesday in a 7-0 vote, allowing Zone 7 staff to move forward with funding negotiations and the project design.

Specific funding mechanisms are still up in the air, though the board is considering either pay-as-you-go financing or debt-financing for the ozone projects. According to water resources planner Elke Rank, 100% of funding for the Del Valle project will come from Fund 120 -- Improvement, Renewal & Replacement.

The proposal saw opposition from several residents, some of whom carried signs reading phrases like "Roll Back Rate Hike Along with Drought Surcharge."

Tish Niehans, a Pleasanton resident who had voiced concerns about the board's lack of transparency earlier in the meeting, was critical of the board's public review process, saying that she had not been alerted to the environmental review.

"I think there was a failure of adequate public notice for this draft document...I surely would have commented, because I’m concerned not just with environmental impact of construction dust and dirt and noise, but of what massive amounts of ozone, 24/7/52, for the next 25 years is going to mean for the environment of the vineyards close by and the people living nearby," she said.

Board member Sarah Palmer, a science teacher with a degree in biochemistry, addressed Niehan's latter concern later, stating that in the treatment process, the ozone would be destroyed before getting released into the environment.

Other residents expressed the sentiment that the scope of the project was unnecessary and too expensive.

Vin Pohray acknowledged that ozone was an effective disinfectant. "What we have as a concern is that the use of ozone should be limited to settled water and disinfection, as most other agencies do," he said. His concern rested in how the project would be treating raw water with ozone.

However, Palmer again pointed to a chart from the presentation earlier, citing other plants and projects that were also treating raw water -- the L.A. Aqueduct, Stockton Delta Water Supply Project and the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant in San Mateo were included, among others.

Two members of the public spoke up in favor of the project, thanking the board for moving forward with it.

"I think that now is the time to move forward with this technology," Pleasanton resident Jill Buck said. "I'm so tired of seeing our infrastructure -- locally, statewide, and nationally -- crumbling around us, and hearing the same tired excuse, that it's too expensive to do anything, when we all know that it will only get more expensive the longer we wait."

The other public proponent was Livermore Mayor John Marchand, a chemist who also served on Zone 7's board for 15 years. "I assure you, the risks of trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, haloacetonitriles, and the cyanotoxins, those risks are very real," he said. "Ozone represents the state-of-the-art treatment. Our children and their children deserve nothing less."

The Zone 7 board also talked 2018 water rates, voting to end the temporary drought surcharge after it expires in December 2017 and to approve staff recommendations for both treated and untreated water rates.

Zone 7 sells water wholesale to local service providers, including the cities of Pleasanton and Livermore, Cal Water Livermore and the Dublin San Ramon Service District (DSRSD). Zone 7 rate increases are passed through to ratepayers.

According to Osborn Solitei, Zone 7's assistant general manager of finance, the base rate for treated water will increase from $1.98 per 100 cubic feet (CCF) to $2.04 per CCF, and the average retailer pass-through of Zone 7's fixed charge will go up from $1.07 to $1.12. However, without the surcharge, Solitei said, the overall sum of the treated water rate components will decrease from $3.62/CCF to $3.16/CCF.

The city of Pleasanton is still determining how the new rates will affect residents' water bills.

"The City is working on constructing our rates adjustment based on last night's Zone 7 action," said Leonard Olive, assistant director of Pleasanton's operations services, in an email to the Pleasanton Weekly. "Allocating the 'fixed' component of their rate structure over our customer base requires some detailed consumption forecasting for the next year. We will likely have a close approximation within a week, with fine-tuned numbers by the end of the month."

The vote counts for canceling the drought surcharge and approving the treated water rates were 6-0, as vice-president Jim McGrail left the meeting early.

Following a heated exchange between untreated water customer and former board member David Lunn and board member Bill Stevens, the board also voted to approve increases in untreated water rates as well, which would go up from $113 per acre-foot (AF) to $129 per AF. Five voted in favor of the increases, with Palmer abstaining, without elaboration.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by What is the repair plan?
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Oct 20, 2017 at 2:24 pm

How much is being spent to fund the rock-moving work taking place between Laguna Oaks and the I680? Crews have been moving rocks with heavy equipment 6-days a week since the rains stopped (read: Laguna Oaks homeowners have had to listen to this for 5 months), yet this work has yielded little results in terms of the fissure repairs along the creeks that were damaged during the spring rains. It doesn't appear any work has been done to the fissures along West Las Positas between the DMV and I680. There is evidence of only 1 repair along I680 at the West Las Positas overpass and that work only began a few weeks ago. Who is supervising this fiasco, paying overtime to contractors yet not getting results? Where is the accountability?


5 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Oct 20, 2017 at 4:01 pm

I am not knowledgable enough to comment on the Ozone system viability. I am concerned about the condition of the pipes that transport the water (decay or allowing contaminants in) and am of the mindset to get me the raw material (water to my house) and I will take care of cleaning it with my own purification system.


1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 20, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Enclosed water storage systems tend to develop nitrates.
Pleasanton flushes or drains water off from it storage tanks above Foothill Road because of nitrates. They drain approximately 100,000 gallons until they can measure nitrate levels that is safe for human consumption.

Other methods for removing nitrates from drinking water is with ION exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis. Heating and or boiling water will not remove nitrates.


Like this comment
Posted by FalseNews & AlternativeFacts
a resident of Mission Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 8:15 pm

@ Michael Austin

Could you please clarify the point you are making?

While nitrates & the removal of nitrates is important, I do not see how this applies to Zone 7.

The Ozone plant will be owned & operated by Zone 7 , treating "raw" water.

This treated water is then delivered to Pleasanton, which stores it in the many water tanks constructed at higher elevations throughout the city.

Thank you

John


1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 21, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Zone 7 water is filthy dirty with multiple bacteria and toxins.

When Zone 7 releases their treated water to Pleasanton it meets the acceptable level of measured toxins considered save for human consumption.

With ozone filtration, the acceptable level of nitrates currently entering into the released water to Pleasanton will contain much less to near none, which will result in less water being flushed into the arroyos at over one million gallons yearly.


18 people like this
Posted by Concerned water user
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2017 at 8:21 pm

I was absolutely shocked to watch the unprofessional behavior exhibited by Zone 7 Board Member Bill Stevens when responding to questions being asked by a citizen requesting supporting numbers on the untreated water rates.
This is not the first time Director Stevens has acted unprofessional during meetings. Zone 7 has a history of being non transparent to the community it serves. They were investigated by the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury and found to be non transparent. The Grand Jury recommendation was that the agency televise their meetings. Now Zone 7 Board President John Greci is trying to stop the televised meetings stating it is to expensive while at the same time giving General Manager Jill Duerig a 18% pay increase. Zone 7 is also in the process of demoting and laying off long time staff members due to what they claim are revenue shortfalls.
I encourage all residents of Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin to demand Zone 7 and the Zone 7 Board of Directors to continue televising their meetings to safeguard transparency. I also encourage voters to replace Director Stevens during the 2018 election with someone who will listen to citizen concerns and treat them with respect.





16 people like this
Posted by Zone 7 Water User
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 22, 2017 at 9:52 am

I also watched the latest Zone 7 Board of Directors meeting and was offended by the behavior of Director Bill Stevens. The public should always feel welcome to come to the board with questions and concerns. Director Stevens was rude and offensive. Director Stevens attacked a resident asking questions concerning water rates. He came off as nothing more than a bully. Zone 7 was found to have no transparency and began televising their meetings at the recommendation of the Alameda County Grand Jury. One Director was quoted as saying they did not want the public to attend their meetings. There have been many past incidents that Director Stevens has treated fellow members of the board and public disrespectfully during meetings. Intimidating and bullying public speakers is not acceptable.

Just a reminder to the Zone 7 Board of Directors what your Board Decorum policy states.

Board members shall at all times conduct themselves with the utmost decorum. Members shall afford due respect to one another, Agency staff and the public. Members shall be courteous and shall not engage in personal attacks or make malicious or offensive statements or comments during the conduct of Agency business. In carrying out their duties, Board members shall bear in mind the Board’s role, the Agency’s mission and the interests of the constituency the Board serves. Director participation shall be relevant to the subject matter at hand and should be expressed in a thoughtful, clear, succinct and articulate manner.


12 people like this
Posted by Factchecker
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Bill Stevens is up for re-election next June. Someone needs to run for his seat! Stevens is the director who said he didn’t want people to know who he is and he didn’t want to talk to people when the decision to televise meetings was made. Not sure why he would want to be in an elected position but with that kind of attitude he needs to be replaced!


14 people like this
Posted by Censure
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 22, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Viewing the previous comments peaked my curiosity. I watched the latest Zone 7 Board Meeting. I agree completely that Director Stevens was unprofessional and his behavior should be addressed. If this is just one example of what occurs in a Zone 7 Board room, I can only imagine what happens behind closed doors! What citizen would want to ask questions and be treated in this manner. Shame on Director Stevens and the Zone 7 Board of Directors. Citizens put you in office to address community concerns and can easily remove you from office. Board President John Greci should run these meetings with proper decorum and an apology should be forthcoming to this citizen speaker.


10 people like this
Posted by Clean up our valley
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Oct 22, 2017 at 9:36 pm

Zone 7 Board is a complete joke. It’s time for a new board. Director Stevens should be fired, but that is not possible because he answers to nobody but himself... and clearly that is not a clean relationship. Neighbors, it is time for a recall. We must recall Bill Stevens and President Greci as they are no longer working on behalf of tri-valley water customers, they are just keeping the seats warm while they raise rates and rubber stamp whatever that staff over there provides them. Maybe the State can step in and take Zone 7 over too.


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