Hesperia Approaching Five Years W/O Pocket H2O Facility Running

When Hesperia and Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority officials broke ground on the Hesperia Subregional Water Recycling Facility in March 2015, there were confident predictions that once the plant came on line two years hence, it would generate some million gallons of water per day that would be used for irrigation at various places around the city, and that the operation could be expanded to treat as much as 4 million gallons daily.
The facility involves storm water pump stations, reclaimed water pump stations, influent screens, two aeration basins, inline ultraviolet disinfection, hybrid membranes involving the use of permeate and backwash pumping, a recirculating aquaculture system pumping station and percolation ponds. The facility is designed to function as a “scalping plant,’ meaning it sucks liquid out of the sewage line leading from Hesperia to the main regional treatment plant operated by the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority near the Mojave River in Victorville. At the subregional plant the foul water is skimmed, filtered through two sets of membranes and then subjected to ultraviolet light to kill bacteria.
The water the facility delivers is not intended to be potable – that is, it is not to be used for drinking, cooking or bathing – but it will be suitable for use at the city’s golf course and to maintain the fields and landscaping at various schools around the city. This would replace groundwater that would otherwise be pumped from the city’s wells.
Nearly five years after the $40 million plant was completed, it has not recycled a drop of water.
Hesperia officials over the last four-plus years have not offered much in the way of an explanation as to why the waterworks has lain fallow, and little in the way of an effort has been made to bring it on line. Nor has the Hesperia City Council nor other city officials pushed the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, which technically owns the facility and serves as its operator, to make it functional.
Instead the liquid in the city’s effluent has gone to the main water treatment plant, and the water derived there has been used in Victorville for irrigation purposes.
Had the Hesperia Subregional Wastewater Reclamation Facility been functioning over the last several years, the recycled water produced there would have been pumped to a large storage tank managed by the City of Hesperia and then piped to ponds at the Hesperia Golf Course, as well as to school campuses to irrigate landscape and grass covered fields.
According to Hesperia City Councilman Bill Holland, who serves as his city’s representative on the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority and is currently the chairman of that entity’s board, the facility will be up and running at full capacity no later than January of next year, and will likely be partially on line as early as the second week of November.
At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Holland read a narrative prepared by Darron Poulsen, the general manager of the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority.
According to Poulsen, as voiced by Holland, “The issues that are causing delays in the delivery of recycled water in the City of Hesperia from the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority’s Hesperia Subregional Facility began five years ago when for financial reasons the facility [was] not put on line after construction was completed. Revenue shortcomings at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority attributed to diversion matters caused the organization to have a layoff of 33 percent of staff, staff that was meant to operate the facility. The plant sat idle for almost four years until January of 2020, when staffing levels were slightly increased.”
Holland said technical glitches compounded by poor management decisions more than four years ago prevented the Hesperia facility from going on line some 20 months ago.
“At that time it was assumed,” Holland, reading from Poulsen’s narrative, continued, “the facilities could simply be turned on and operations would be fine. That was not the case. Sitting idle for three, almost four years, start-up was not smooth. Filter membranes had been sitting in stale water for years and both membrane trains were fouled to the point of needing to be completely replaced. Due to COVID-19 measures, manufacturing was significantly delayed. To date, one train has been replaced, and the other train is scheduled for replacement the second week of October 2021. In February of 2021, the Victor Valley Waste Water Reclamation Authority was close to starting operation [of the plant], with the one replaced train. At that time the regional water quality board informed the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority staff that when the plant was shut down, previous Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority leadership did not perform the final operational performance testing on the ultraviolet disinfection system, and that we could not start the plant until the test was completed. During initial testing of the ultraviolet system we found that the three years plus of sitting stagnant, with recycled water in the ultraviolet system, [it] was not operating correctly. The entire ultraviolet system needed to be rebuilt. All of these delays in starting the plant are attributed to actions taken five years ago, and could not have been foreseen by current staff as necessary steps to restart the plant.”
Holland said, “The materials to repair the ultraviolet system are being installed this week. The team performing the ultraviolet operational performance testing will start the work on Monday, September 13. The work will take two weeks to complete. The second set of membranes are now ready to be installed They’re scheduled to be installed in the middle of October. The work will take two weeks to complete.”
Holland said, “The Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority will send the performance testing paperwork to the regional board by the end of October. “
Again reading from Poulsen’s narrative, Holland said, “The newly updated ultraviolet system has a potential to deliver a temporary operating requirement of a double ultraviolet dose, which will allow Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority to deliver recycled water at 250 gallons per minute within a week of the new membranes’ installation.”
Holland predicted a “best case delivery date of November 8, 2021. If there is a delay in the membranes’ installation [there will be a] wait to deliver recycled water until after the Thanksgiving Holiday, November 29.”
As the current board chairman at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, Holland was unwilling to lay responsibility for the four year-plus delay at the feet of the troops he leads.
“I don’t want folks to blame the current staff, because it’s not their fault,” Holland warranted. “They’ve done the best they can with what they have had to inherit.”
Holland was confident the facility will soon be doing what it has been kept from doing for too long.
“Once the regional board approves the testing, the facility will be able to ramp up to full delivery mode, which should be over 500 gallons per minute,” Holland said. “The Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority staff will push hard to have this review completed, so that full operations can start by January of 2022.”
Holland said that at that time, the operation “should be able to deliver reclaimed water to at least the golf course, which is already set up for it, and possibly other sites that have been set up for it.”
Holland said he had prompted Poulsen to provide him with the narrative so he could inform Hesperia’s residents about “the reason why we have gotten to this point and haven’t gotten any further along.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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