Clovis City Council approves use of channel to carry recycled water to river

Clovis City Council members approved a resolution that will allow the city to send highly treated sewer water into a neighborhood north of Clovis over some residents’ opposition.

Residents north of Clovis told Clovis City Council members on March 7that they didn’t want the city’s recycled sewer water running near their properties when the city plans to divert the water later this year or early next year.

But the City Council, citing approval from about two-thirds of the residents and the need to divert the water, voted 4-0 to support a “resolution of necessity” that could trigger eminent domain proceedings and allow the city to use the channel.

The city’s action will not change use of the land or prevent anyone from using land any differently than they are now, said Luke Serpa, the city’s public utilities director.

The water comes from the city’s wastewater plant where water is cleaned to a state-approved level that allows it to be used for everything except drinking. The city has been diverting treated water into Fancher Creek since the water recycling plant opened seven years ago. But because the Fresno Irrigation District, which oversees operation of Fancher Creek, needs to do maintenance in the channel, Clovis needs a second diversion location.

District officials say they have had no issues with the water from its water users.

The Big Dry Creek diversion passing the Appaloosa Acres neighborhood was approved in environmental documents filed under the California Environmental Quality Act. The water eventually will run into the San Joaquin River.

The city will pay the residents $1,500 to obtain easements to use the diversion channel. The water that typically runs through the area is storm runoff from the foothills and areas east of the subdivision, which is north of Shepherd and roughly along Armstrong Avenue on the east.

The residents claim the city’s recycled water will have pollutants that can’t be removed, including pharmaceuticals and possibly radiation, items the state can’t measure.

City officials say the plant gets 99 percent of all potential contaminants out of the water through processes used at the plant. Water from runoff that comes from ranches, farms and roads that sometimes runs through the diversion channel is less safe than the disinfected water the city will run there, city officials say. The city’s water amounts to about 3 cubic feet per second. The channel’s capacity allows flows of 700 cubic feet per second.

Resident David Varney, who opposes the plan, said the city is not taking an option that does the least injury to his neighborhood.

He suggested the city examine other options, such as running the water to its recharge basins, an idea the city is exploring.

And, the city’s processes aren’t foolproof, he said.

“You’re saying this water is safe, but it’s not at all safe,” he said. “You’re decreasing the amount of a virus, you’re not removing it.”

Resident Cassie Santellan said she has read on the Internet that water from sewage treatment plants has radiation and pharmaceuticals that can’t be removed.

“This is bad for everyone if this stuff seeps into the (well) water,” she said.

Councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck said she understands the residents’ trepidation because council members were concerned about the water when the water reuse plant was proposed more than a decade ago.

In voting for the resolution, Councilman Bob Whalen said he will try to stop that water from going into the channel.

“Not because this is bad water, but because the water is good and we want to use it for our purposes,” he said.

Clovis uses the recycled water for landscaping in parks and along streets. Clovis Community Medical Center uses it for landscaping, and Caltrans uses it on greenery along Highway 168.

The state tests the water and has found no problems, Serpa said.

But the state was concerned that the city’s second diversion point hadn’t been approved as required under state law, he said.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin

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