Nevada County, area city councils stir the sewage debate

Dave Moller
Sun News Service

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. and#8212; Sewage experts urged Nevada County officials to tap into a regional wastewater plant Friday as the long-term solution to ongoing problems of upgrades at small, local plants to meet changing federal and state regulations.

At a meeting of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and the city councils of Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee, water consultant Gabe Aronow said a regional plant would bring lower costs compared to running the county’s numerous sewage treatment plants forever.

and#8220;Bring the water to one place instead of multiple plants,and#8221; Aronow said. Though he acknowledged and#8220;it can be difficult to get jurisdictions to work togetherand#8221; toward a regional plant, he urged it anyway.

The regional sewage plant concept has been around for many years, and the city of Lincoln now has a large plant with capacity for much more than it now handles.

and#8220;Everybody agrees about regionalization, but the question is, where do you get the money?and#8221; asked District 1 Supervisor Nate Beason. and#8220;In the short term, we need rules changes for small communities.and#8221;

When the Cascade Shores sewage treatment plant got wiped out by a landslide in 2005, Beason got a quick education in sewage plant regulations, which he has been fighting ever since.

The Nevada City-area supervisor has been lobbying in Sacramento to get federal and state water quality standards lowered for small communities. Smaller communities don’t have as many customers among which to spread out higher rates to pay for plant upgrades as large municipalities do.

Although Colfax has a new sewage treatment facility, City Manager Joan Phillipe, who spoke at Friday’s gathering, said her town was looking at a regional plant for the long term. That would be better than going through another 30 years of dealing with sewage plant problems and the state water board, she added.

A regional plant is probably the best answer for the county, according to Wendy Wyels of the California State Water Quality Control Board. However, she admitted the upfront costs to hook up and the time it would take are drawbacks for the county.

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