A Pine water improvement district has applied for a permit to discharge treated water from the Portals IV sewage treatment plant into an unnamed creekbed that drains into Pine Creek. The public has until Aug. 20 to submit comments or objections to the state.
The treatment plant was approved by the state three or four years ago and was built in conjunction with Pine Creek Canyon Portals IV, project engineer Ralph Bossert said. The treated water, which meets the same standards as the water in Green Valley Park in Payson, is currently discharged into a holding pond, where it perks into the ground.
This permit will allow the developers, Portals IV LLC, to divert the water into the creekbed if the pond needs to be rejuvenated or if they want to expand the subdivision and the capacity of the discharge area, Bossert said.
"This is a common system for this type of development," said permit writer Robert Wilson of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. "In my opinion this seems to be a well-designed plant -- one that I'd have confidence in."
According to the permit, the treated water must be clean enough to allow partial-body contact in the creekbed -- wading, but not swimming -- and full-body contact such as swimming in Pine Creek.
The discharged water must be clean enough to protect the aquatic life and wildlife that live in and around the creekbed and Pine Creek, and it must be clean enough to allow Pine Creek to be used for domestic, agricultural, wildlife and livestock water uses.
According to the plans for the plant, the sewage will be filtered through two biological reactors to break down the waste, a clarification chamber to separate the solids and liquids and an ultraviolet disinfection chamber to sterilize the waste.
The solids will be relegated to a sludge holding tank until they can be disposed of in a landfill or used as an agricultural fertilizer. According to the five-year permit, which must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, the sludge cannot create a nuisance by emitting offensive odors or attracting flies.
A portion of the treated water will be recycled for plant operations and the excess will be dumped into the wash, which contains naturally flowing water part of the year.
The plant operator -- the Pine Canyon Domestic Water Improvement District -- must test the discharged water once a month for:
- fecal choliform -- The presence of this organism may indicate the presence of other, more dangerous organisms in the treated water. This test indicates how well the treatment plant is doing its job.
- settable and suspended solids (settable solids settle and do not remain suspended in water; suspended solids remain suspended in water) -- This test is designed to make sure the water released into the creekbed isn't sludgy.
- total nitrogen, biochemical oxygen demand, total phosphorous and PH -- These tests are designed to make sure that the treated water won't upset the environmental balance of the creeks, causing such things as algae blooms and fish kills.
Written comments or hearing requests for the proposed Pine Creek Canyon Unit IV sewage treatment plant can be mailed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IX, CWA Standards and Permits Office Mail Code, WTR-5, Attention Terry Oda, 75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, or to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division, Attention Robert Wilson, 3033 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85012.