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An Update: Boonville Waste Water Treatment

Last week I was included in a gathering of the engineers from Brelje & Race and Roy O’Connor from Region One Water Board, as well as a couple of the CSD board members for an informal look at one of the potential waste water treatment sites. The engineers needed to see the site for their drawings and to plan soil studies at the site.

Much of the discussion was about waste water treatment in general. Valerie Hanelt of the CSD board recently toured other sites around Northern California and there were several questions for both Mr. O’Connor and the engineers that came about from those tours. 

Of particular interest is how to educate folks so that they understand why a waste water treatment site is so important for the future of Boonville. 

Right now we have, as one of the engineers stated, a system that is “toilet to tap” throughout much of the town due to the proximity of so many wells to septic tanks and leach fields. Instead, we could have a toilet to treatment system that maybe at some future time could even be clean enough to be put back to the tap.

One way to think about the waste water system is to ask why some folks feel we don’t need one? They don’t feel it’s necessary because they personally are not affected — they have enough land that their wells aren’t being contaminated by anyone’s septic or leach field. I think that is a small percentage of folks. But some of them are pretty loud in their resistance to a treatment system. The question for them is: what about what happens to their waste water — currently it runs into the ground without treatment and eventually ends up in someone’s drinking water. And it’s not just human waste that goes down many drains; pharmaceuticals, birth control pills, hair dyes, lotions and potions you put on your skin and then wash off, etc., etc. All these end up in the ground water as well. 

What happens if one of the properties that currently is a restaurant or the hotel can’t replace its septic system? That property goes out of business. Or, what happens if one of those properties burns down? What if an existing well and septic aren’t good enough to meet the new codes and the business can’t be rebuilt? We all know what an eyesore the Ricard building is at the south end of town. Imagine if all through town we had pockets that looked like that?

What happens if it’s a home that can no longer have its own septic system? The County won’t condemn the property but the property owner likely will not be able to find someone to buy the property either. Imagine a row of homes that sit empty because no one can flush a toilet?

Some fear the word “development” in our community. But what if that development is simply rebuilding? We all know what a fire in town looks like. We all watched the Pic N Pay and the former Lodge building go up, along with several small homes with them. And we all know what it looks like to see that empty lot in the heart of our town. Is this really what we want?

The cost is another concern of some folks. Right now, the CSD has found 100% of the funds from the State to pay for this infrastructure. As Mr. O’Connor said, “There never has been this much funding for small town infrastructure.” There is also new grant money out there to “beautify” Boonville — say with a nice public restroom — but we can’t apply for that money because we don’t have the municipal infrastructure — i.e., drinking water and waste water treatment — to qualify for those funds. 

What about the monthly rate-payer cost? Well, what do you pay for your monthly TV bill? Internet? Phone? The cost of the water and sewer will probably less than those costs.

One last point, if the waste water system is approved by the property owners in Boonville, you will be required to hook up to it. When you hook up at that time, you will not have a cost to do so. Future hook-ups will likely have a cost involved. 

The CSD will continue to provide information to the community and there will be more public meetings as well. It’s time for Boonville to move out of the 19th century and into the 21st (or even the 20th) and have clean water and waste water treatment for all of its citizens.

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