Williams sewer plant to upgrade, avoid penalties

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (WQCB) will allow the City of Williams to take the $48,000 the wastewater treatment plant has racked up in penalties from compliance violations in recent years and apply it toward a system to test effluent for pollutants before it’s discharged to Salt Creek, a tributary to Freshwater Creek and the Colusa Basin Drain.

City Manager Frank Kennedy said the city was most recently fined for having ammonia levels that exceeded the state’s limit for contaminants.

“About 2.5 years ago, we had the same thing with nitrates, because we had no way to know when the plant was out of compliance mid-stream, so to speak,” he said. “We would only know when the results came back from the lab, which is about a two-week lag time.”
According to the WQCB, between May 2013 and January 2018, Williams’ $22 million wastewater treatment plant had nine serious violations and five non-serious violations, all subject to mandatory minimum penalties of $3,000 per violation.

The WQCB, a regulatory agency for the State of California, defines serious violations as effluent containing pollutants – like cyanide and coliform – that exceed the legal limits by 10 percent or more.

City officials said instead of spending $48,000 to pay off the fines, they will spend it on a new blower and probe to test to see if the wastewater contains high levels of pollutants and needs additional treatment before it is discharged into the environment.

“If it does, it will switch the valve off so it does not go out of the plant anymore,” said Councilman John Troughton Jr. “It will go back into the plant, so we won’t have that violation of it going out.”

Kennedy said a proposal on the improvements should be before the City Council this month.

He also anticipates $1 million in additional improvements would need to be made before the next permit process to increase the facility’s wastewater capacity from 500,000 gallons a day to 750,000 gallons a day.