Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

FPUD plant feted at lunch ceremony

A $6 million water treatment plant that is believed to be the first of its kind in the state was publicly unveiled last week by Fallbrook Public Utility District officials.

The ultraviolet treatment plant located alongside the 22-acre Red Mountain reservoir represents a local answer to state and federal mandates that require districts to cover or treat water stored in open reservoirs.

“We’re a leader in the water community, which is nice,” Al Gebhart, a district director, said in his remarks to about 90 onlookers at the plant’s Feb. 2 dedication. “It just makes sense. It’s a glimpse of the future. Other people are going to be looking our way.”

The event – where guest were treated to lunch and received commemorative t-shirts – attracted representatives from water districts serving vast areas of San Diego and Riverside counties.

Jack Bebee, the district’s engineering and planning manager, said it wasn’t easy to find a new way to resolve nationwide water quality concerns spurred by a 1993 failure of a Milwaukee treatment plant that resulted in 400,000 people suffering stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea and dehydration.

“We had to twist a few arms at the (state) Department of Health Services, but they finally saw the light,” Bebee said.

The cost of the ultraviolet technology was far less than the $15 million to $20 million price tag to cover the reservoir that is perched on a knoll west of Interstate 15 near East Mission Road. However, much of the savings netted from building ultraviolet plants is offset by the high cost of the power and chemicals needed to operate them.

Part of the cost of building the ultraviolet plant was offset by federal disaster funds the district received after the Rice Canyon fire destroyed an existing treatment facility there more than two years ago. FPUD serves the Fallbrook and De Luz areas.

The new system was of keen interest to Rua Petty, president of the Rainbow Municipal Water District. Rainbow – which serves the south Fallbrook, Bonsall and Rainbow areas – is contemplating whether to construct an ultraviolet plant or cover its Beck reservoir, which is similar to the size of Red Mountain.

Rainbow has covered one of its open reservoirs and is about to begin work on a second. Current plans call for or two steel tanks to replace a third open reservoir, but many questions linger over how to proceed on Beck.

“I’ve been anxiously waiting to see this because it is probably our top option,” Petty said as tours of the new FPUD plant were about to begin. “We’ve got a lot of issues we’ve got to deal with to put a UV plant on (Beck), but this is outstanding.”

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