Sewage plant release may hurt creek |

Sewage plant release may hurt creek

Deer Creek has a lot of algae and relatively high pH levels – conditions potentially harmful to fish – below Nevada County’s Lake Wildwood sewage treatment plant.

That’s according to Friends of Deer Creek, a Nevada City-based environmental group whose volunteers regularly test the creek’s waters.

Phosphates in treated water released from the sewage plant likely contribute to the problem, said John van der Veen of Friends of Deer Creek.

“Even small amounts of phosphates can cause a bloom of algae,” which can change the creek’s pH level, van der Veen said.

It may be necessary for the sewage treatment plant to install more equipment to reduce phosphates in its discharge, he said.

A county official agreed algae and pH could be a problem.

“We have discussed that issue with them. I think there’s some justification to being concerned,” said Steve Faukner, Nevada County waste-water operations supervisor.

The environmentalists have been meeting regularly with county officials to discuss water quality below the sewage plant.

Upgrading the plant to reduce phosphates could be expensive.

“It’s a very expensive process,” van der Veen said. But “if we or anybody else can show the salmon are threatened because of that – and they are an endangered species – then you’ve got a real problem.”

The sewage plant’s operators already expect to spend $1 million fixing up the plant to obtain a new and stricter state discharge permit in June, Faukner said.

The new permit will require the plant to reduce such things as ammonia and residual chlorine, said Kyle Ericson, an associate engineer at the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Contacted Friday, Ericson said he’s in the process of drafting the new discharge permit and would be interested in seeing Friends of Deer Creeks’ data.

“(Phosphorous) is something we’re concerned about,” he said.

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