In Chino, to turn dairy farms into homes requires water—a large increase in the city’s water supply—enough to support hundreds of new families moving into future homes where dairy cows once lined up in milking stalls.
To get more water, the city is turning to well water—water that is tapped from vast underground lakes known as aquifers and turned into potable supplies for use by future residents. Because aquifers can become contaminated by leakage of chemicals, making water safe to drink takes extensive treatment that requires substantial capital costs.
“Chino is developing the southern portion of our city,” explained Amanda Coker, principal engineer, during a recent interview. “The plan is for (water treatment) expansion for all types of growth.” (A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 18, in front of the Chino City Council at 13220 Central Ave., Chino.)
Treatment for New Water
According to new environmental documents released earlier this month and a year’s worth of staff reports, the city wants to build a $12 million expansion of its Eastside Water Treatment Facility, located in Ontario, increasing capacity from 3,500 gallons per minute, or about 5 million gallons per day, to 7,000 gallons per minute, or about 10 million gallons per day. A pipeline is also planned through Ontario.
“City staff has been tracking upcoming development and related water demands and have determined that the next phase of master-planned facilities is necessary,” a Chino staff report in January 2019 concluded.
To do this, the plant will treat water from one to two wells closed by state regulators due to unsafe chemical contamination levels. Wastewater will be pumped through a pipeline along streets in Ontario and Chino.
Removal of Chemicals Required
The expanded plant will remove traces of a pesticide known as 1,2,3 Trichloropropane, or TCP, a carcinogen, from the wells. It will also treat nitrates that leaked into the wells from cow manure and fertilizers from above-ground activities. Nitrates can cause “blue baby” disease, turning mucous membranes blue and causing respiratory and digestive problems in infants. At high concentrations, the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity is reduced and could lead to brain damage or death, studies show.
Chino wants to increase the use of granulated activated carbon to draw out TCP from well water and dispose of the waste. Any treatment must lower the level of TCP in potable water to five parts per trillion, the California Safe Drinking Water Act standard.
Also, the plant will remove nitrates through ionic exchange. Nitrates, or salts known as brine, will be sent to the Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s pipeline for treatment and disposal in Orange County, said Coker.
“I believe that line goes to the ocean. That water is super high in salts,” explained Peter Kavounas, general manager of the Chino Basin Watermaster, which monitors groundwater activity in the vast underground basin.
Chino has several obstacles to overcome: It must get the money and the OK to expand its plant and build a waste pipeline through the city of Ontario.
Cutting Down 86 Trees
The concentrated brine wastewater will travel through a proposed 3.5-mile pipeline stretching from the treatment plant at 7537 Schaefer Ave. to the pipe connection roughly located near the Chino Desalter 1 facility. Two proposed alignments are still being mulled, but roughly the waste pipeline would go down Schaefer, Bon View, Merrill and Euclid avenues—from Ontario into Chino.
To build the pipeline, the developer must remove 86 trees, mostly from Bon View Avenue in Ontario, Coker said. “We are working with the city of Ontario on this project,” she said.
Ontario Is Supportive
“The city of Ontario is supportive of the project,” Ontario City Manager Scott Ochoa said in an email. “It helps assure reliability and redundancy in the water system of a neighboring agency.”
The environmental report, known as a Mitigated Negative Declaration, points out that the construction of a brine waste pipeline will involve removing the trees in four locations mostly in Ontario, on Bon View, Schaefer and Merrill avenues.
No New Water for Ontario
Ochoa said Chino is adjusting the pipeline route so it won’t interfere with plans for expansion of Ontario’s housing projects in the Ontario Ranch area.
“It’s probably worth noting that these trees would very likely be removed when a new, wider street and right-of-way is installed,” Ochoa wrote in an email. “At that time new streetscape and landscape plans will be installed, similar to the schematic of Ontario Ranch’s Phase I.”
As far as the expansion of a facility in the city of Ontario along with the pipeline, Ochoa said when it comes to water and other utilities, the two neighboring cities work together. “Respective engineering departments endeavor to accommodate one another’s future plans and capital programs,” Ochoa wrote.
Pumping closed wells will not hurt the Chino Basin, said Kavounas. “We manage the basin and we don’t see any problems with them pumping,” he said.
In addition, Chino will be able to halt the removal of brine waste by diesel trucks from its wastewater treatment plant in Ontario to a plant in Orange County, a costly and environmentally degrading undertaking in place for the past three years, she said.
Diesel-powered trucks are a major source of particulate emissions that foul the air. They also add greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
“This [pipeline] would eliminate the need for trucking,” Coker said. “Hauling it off is very expensive…. We would also eliminate those carbon emissions.”
Public hearing: 7 p.m. Feb. 18, Chino City Council at 13220 Central Ave., Chino.