Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009 | Rob Davis‘ article on recycled sewage is interesting but a bit short on fact. First, when San Diego tried out their proposed system in the mid-1990s, there was much hype about the Virginia project, which had just started, and the Orange County program.
The wastewater department had spent a lot of taxpayer money on an experimental plant, and had many reports including a “scientific report” which I read. The principle conclusion was that the proposed system “shows promise.” That is a scientist’s way of saying that we aren’t there yet.
The Orange County plan was to return the somewhat purified sewage to the underground, natural, aquifer where it would circulate for six about six years, not six months.
Quite apart from the issues of the science and planning, the one problem not solved is that of human error. During the period when the city was considering this project, there were several leaks of sewage into bodies of so-called “pure” water, which had gone undetected for months. This was largely due to a failure to conduct regular inspections. Every city and county department screws up on occasion for a whole variety of reasons. There is nothing to insure that they won’t happen to our drinking water.