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The Long, Slow Flow of Oxnard’s Wastewater

The City of Oxnard’s Public Works Department offered a public tour of its wastewater treatment facility at 5700 Perkins Road in Oxnard on July 17 and 19. (Photo Courtesy: Tim Pompey)

By Tim Pompey

When you wash dishes or take a shower, do you ever wonder where that water ends up? Probably not. Out of sight, out of mind as the saying goes. But the City of Oxnard is certainly thinking about it, and their public works department must deal with it 24/7.

For Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Point Mugu, there are about 425 miles of sewer lines, an enormous multifunctional water treatment plant located off of Perkins and Hueneme Road in Oxnard, and a water pipeline that travels under Ormond Beach, stretches 6800 feet out into the ocean, and releases an average of 21 million gallons of treated water a day.

These are only a few of the things that came to light during the City of Oxnard’s public tour of their wastewater treatment plant and advanced water purification facility on July 17 and 19.

For Daniel Rydberg, the city’s public works utilities and engineering manager, talking to local water users about these and other details are part of his department’s goal—to help educate its customers about what goes into water treatment. As the tour demonstrated, it’s a massive high-tech process that remains largely unnoticed by the general public. “One of the reasons why we wanted to have the tour,” said Rydberg, “is to let everybody know what we have here and what it takes to treat our water.”

Rydberg feels it’s important for the general public to have a better understanding of what it takes to run a large water treatment facility. “I think that the main thing to know is that there are a lot of facilities that are kind of out of view that are very important and in some cases very expensive and need maintenance and attention.”

Currently, the department of public works is working with the city to help update the city’s general master plan. As a part of that update, the public works department is evaluating its own water treatment plant and hoping at some point in the near future to do some much need updating, repair, and replacement of some of its older and more outdated facilities. An example of this includes replacing the plant’s two cracked and leaking biotowers (built in 1955).

As a result of reevaluating their own specific master plan, public works is currently evaluating their water treatment plans and putting together a list of projects along with cost estimates and a work schedule.

Since these projects will affect a resident’s water rates, the goal is to replace older parts of the plant with new technologies that are more advanced and cost efficient, all in an attempt to keep utility rates as reasonable as possible.

Rydberg explained that this new water treatment plan is the first in the department’s history to pull together “water quality evaluation for water, storm water, recycled water, waste water, all done together as one plan.”

The benefit of this is significant. “You can coordinate all the quality aspects of water,” he said. “Since your waste water quality and your storm water quality affect your drinking water, a lot of the water is going back into the aquifers, and so you want to make sure all of those are coordinated.”

In addition, with California in a severe drought, the public works department wants to make water conservation a high priority. “In middle of this drought in California, we want to make sure we’re conserving, but also using storm water and waste water and recycling it as much as possible so that we’ll increase water supplies,” he said.

The good news is that the public works department is making progress on several fronts. A new headworks station was installed in 2008, and if all goes as planned, a new advanced water purification facility is scheduled to go online next spring.

Rydberg believes another point for the tour is to show that, for all the work and expense that goes into treating water in Oxnard, its residents are getting a good deal. “For the cost of my cell phone bill,” he explained, “I can pay for water and wastewater that is the best quality in the world. Compared to other things, it’s a pretty good value.”

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