On-campus facility provides water

By Jane Pojawa

California’s record drought is causing many people to consider where their water is coming from and what it takes to produce a glass of it. Fortunately for Cal Poly Pomona, a new treatment facility will ensure that the majority of the campus’s potable water is going to be produced “in house.”

It starts with Well 1, located about a mile from campus on property owned by the university. Groundwater from the well is piped down Valley Boulevard until it reaches Building 27, a mission-style building located across the road from the Arabian Horse Center pastures. The well water is filtered and blended here, using state of the art equipment in a brand-new facility.

“The treatment facility was created to reduce the campus dependence on imported water that is increasingly more expensive and less available during this record drought,” said Javier Arreguin,water system operations manager.

“Under optimal conditions, we can process 350 gallons of water per minute.”

The facility is in the final stages of testing, and is expected to be fully operational in July.

The Department of Public Health requires a battery of tests, including site inspections and chemical analysis of water samples. InBuilding 27, tubes containing pore-sized membranes filter out contaminants and certain minerals. Then, unfiltered and clean water is mixed in to produce a blend that is tasty (water gets its flavor from minerals) and a sufficient quantity to make the process economically viable. At the end, chlorine is added to remove any potential organic contaminants. The water is further processed to remove carbon dioxide gas. Throughout this process, the water is tested several times to make sure that it falls under Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

Joe Phillipy, lead operator of water treatment operations, is cautiously optimistic that the water from Well 1 will sustain the campus through all but the peak demand periods. These would be when the campus population soars at the beginning of the fall quarter and the first few weeks of the winter and spring quarters. At these times, well water will be supplemented with water from the Metropolitan Water District ” the current way CPP gets water for the entire campus community.

Facilities workers, including staff member Raul Zavala, join Arreguin and Phillipy in the day-to-day operations of the water treatment facility and ancillary structures, keeping things running smoothly.

After the water leaves the treatment facility, it is pumped to one of two reservoirs or the Central Chilled Water Plant. From there, it is gravity-fed back to campus. Each of these steps is carefully monitored on an array of computer screens that provide up-to-the-minute data on all aspects of the water system.

Reclaimed water for the pastures and landscaping is provided by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Department, and is a separate system.

The treatment plant cost about $5 million, but the price is expected to be offset by the savings over time. It has taken four years to complete the project, which has been planned as an addition to campus water security since 2008.

Between the end of spring quarter in June and the beginning of fall quarter in September, the treatment facility has several months to get up and running. Unfortunately, water can’t be saved for a rainy day.

“That just doesn’t work,” said Arreguin. “We have to keep the reservoirs in circulation, or the water will stagnate. Then it develops bad tastes and increased health risks.”

At press time, there was 20 feet of water in one reservoir and 30 feet in the other.

Considering the wildlife on campus and the surrounding areas, the team does have protocol if a critter got into the water treatment plant and drowned.

“I hope that never happens, but if there was a biological contaminant like that, we would drain the reservoir and disinfect it and the health department would come and inspect it” there are procedures in place,” said Arreguin. “But we take security very seriously.”

Besides providing the campus with safe drinking water and lessening dependence on purchased water, the Water Treatment Plant staff is also committed to CPP’s “learn by doing” philosophy. The facility is open by appointment for tours and as a teaching tool for instructors.

Water Treatment Facility

Jane Pojawa / The Poly Post

Water Treatment Facility

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