Cal Water welcomed residents and other special guests at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of the final chromium-6 (Cr-6) treatment plant in its Willows District on Sept. 16, 2016. State Water Resources Control Board Member Steven Moore; Department of Water Resources’ Chief of Financial Analysis and Risk Management, Linda Ng; representatives from the City of Willows and City Council; and representatives from Senator Jim Nielsen and Assemblymember James Gallagher’s office were in attendance at the event, which was held in conjunction with the Value of Water Coalition’s “Imagine a Day Without Water.”
The treatment plant, one of four plants Cal Water has constructed in Willows in the past year, will reduce the amount of naturally occurring Cr-6 from the local water supply. In July 2014, the State of California set the country’s first regulation for Cr-6, allowing no more than 10 parts per billion (ppb) of the constituent be in water provided to consumers. Wells in Cal Water’s Willows District had naturally occurring Cr-6 levels of 16 ppb; however, since the treatment plants came online, the water supply in the Willows District has remained in compliance with the new state standard.
“This treatment plant plays a significant and symbolic part of our efforts to comply with the chromium-6 requirement, as it is the final plant constructed to treat the constituent and allows us to bring another water source back online to provide better water supply reliability to our customers here in Willows,” said Local Manager Geoff Fulks.
With the State mandate coming ahead of the science for treatment, the Department of Water Resources awarded Cal Water a $5 million grant and the Water Research Foundation awarded a $175,000 grant for research and treatment, which will help offset the future rate impact for Willows customers.
“If the State establishes a standard to protect health that could be very expensive to meet, the State has an obligation to help make sure that drinking water is affordable,” Moore said. “We are here in partnership with Cal Water, Willows, and other cities to help make sure that the drinking water is affordable as well as safe.”
“The citizens of Willows are very fortunate that we received the $5 million grant for this project and that Cal Water and their consultants have cleaned-up chrominum-6 for all of us,” said Willows Councilmember Larry Mello.
“The treatment plant is great example of how private, local, and state entities can partner together to provide much needed water infrastructure for our communities,” Gallagher (R-Chico) said in a statement. “Congratulations to the City of Willows and California Water Service on providing this new and efficient facility to the Willows community.”
In order to find the most effective solution, Cal Water’s Water Quality and Engineering departments experimented with three types of groundwater treatment options. After taking cost, method effectiveness, waste disposal, and raw water quality all into consideration, the team selected a strong base ion-exchange approach.
“We wanted to use an option that was both cost-effective for our customers and also effective in treating the water supply,” Fulks said. “The treatment plants that we have installed will ensure Cal Water customers continue to have access to a safe and reliable water supply around the clock and has worked even better than we could have expected.”
“Having a safe water supply is vital to the prosperity of a community,” echoed Nielsen (R-Gerber). “The leadership and staff of Cal Water should be applauded for their hard work and expedience in making this a reality for ours.”
Cal Water is the first company in America to use this specific strong base ion-exchange to remove Cr-6, and the treatment process is now used as a model for other cities and utilities in their treatment of the contaminant.