Category Archives: Wastewater

LETTER SERIES: Steve Young – On the Proposed Recycled Water Project

[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald. But the Herald doesn’t publish letters in its online editions – and many Benician’s don’t subscribe. We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution. – RS]

On the Recycled Water Project

By Steve Young
October 28, 2016
Steve Young for Benicia City Council

I would like to thank Mr. Gartrell for his letter and calling attention to this proposal.

Currently, Valero pays approximately $1 million per year for roughly half of the water used in the City. This is raw, untreated water that is used in their cooling towers and refinery process. The rest of the City customers pay around $6 million for the other half of the treated, potable water. Clearly the treated water is of greater value than untreated water, but one can wonder if it is 6 times more valuable?

The proposed wastewater conversion project, which Valero has described as “drought insurance”, is estimated to cost approximately $25 million. This could presumably be financed by a loan from the State, where the payments (according to City staff) would be approximately $1.5 million per year. Both the City and Valero agree that the technology is achievable, and the main question remaining is who should pay the premiums for this drought insurance (i.e. loan payments).

Since the conversion project would result in wastewater being treated by the City to Valero’s specifications, and would be pumped in new lines from the treatment plant directly to Valero for their exclusive use, it is not unreasonable (or illegal) to expect them to pay the costs of that project. I believe that this is in compliance with Prop. 218.

Clearly, there would be benefits to the City from this project as well, since it would free up more water for the community to accommodate both current residents and any future growth the City may choose to embark upon. And the development of the technology of wastewater conversion could ultimately benefit the City if extended to irrigation purposes for parks, school fields and other public uses-although to do so would require some expensive re-plumbing to direct that reclaimed water for those purposes.
The cost of those uses, of course, would be public costs.

The negotiation of the terms of this project would have to be approved by the new City Council and Valero’s corporate offices in San Antonio, TX.

I remain optimistic that this project could be significant in terms of serving the long term water needs of both Valero and the City.


    EAST BAY TIMES: Benicia: Valero to pay $157,800 penalty over toxic chemicals

    Repost from the East Bay Times

    Benicia: Valero to pay $157,800 penalty over toxic chemicals

    By Denis Cuff, October 5, 2016, 5:53 pm
    The Valero refinery is photographed in Benicia, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
    The Valero refinery is photographed in Benicia, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

    BENICIA – The Valero oil refinery has agreed to pay $157,800 in federal penalties for improper management and storage of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday.

    The violations included illegal disposal of benzene, a carcinogen, into an unlined storm water retention pond and not alerting the public about all of its toxic chemical releases, EPA officials reported.

    In addition to paying the penalties, Valero will modify its piping operations by June 2017 to prevent an estimated 5,000 pounds of benzene from being released into the atmosphere over the next 10 years, officials said.

    Evidence of the violations were detected during an EPA inspection of the Benicia refinery in May 2014 to assess compliance with the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

    Additional violations included the company’s failure to determine if solid waste generated at the refinery was hazardous; the failure to maintain and operate to minimize risks of a toxic release; and failure to maintain complete and accurate records, the EPA said.


      MOSIER OR: High levels of benzene in groundwater after oil train crash

      Repost from Water Online
      [Editor: Significant quote: “The concentration that we found (of benzene) was 1,800 parts per billion, which is approximately ten times higher than a screening level for what would concern us for animals living in a wetland.”  – RS]

      Oil Train Crash Left Benzene Contamination In Groundwater

      By Sara Jerome, August 15, 2016
      train reg new.jpg
      Image credit: “union pacific,” matthew fern © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license,

      A town in Oregon is still reeling from a train derailment two months ago, discovering the crash leaked oil into the groundwater supply.

      A Union Pacific oil train derailed in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge in June, raising concerns about nearby water service and knocking the wastewater system completely out of function in the town of Mosier. In the aftermath of the initial crisis, officials are facing down water contamination, seeking treatment remedies for lingering pollution.

      They found “elevated concentrations of benzene and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater near the derailment site,” OPB reported.

      “The concentration that we found (of benzene) was 1,800 parts per billion, which is approximately ten times higher than a screening level for what would concern us for animals living in a wetland,” Bob Schwarz of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality told OPB.

      State environmental authorities plan “to install a treatment system that injects air into the underground water. They say the oxygen will stimulate the existing microbes that live in the water to break down the oil,” KATU reported.

      The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality installed “four monitoring wells to observe ground water quality after the wreck. Schwartz said one of them had significant oil contamination from the train derailment,” the report said.

      Schwartz provided an update to KATU News.

      “The numbers we’re concerned about are based on the potential of long-term impact … if animals were exposed over many years. In this case, we don’t expect it to be significant because we plan to get out there and remove the contamination within weeks or months,” Schwartz said. “I think this is something we will be able to clean up fairly quickly so I don’t think it will be a significant problem.”

      One positive sign amid the wreckage: Drinking water wells for this town remain unaffected, the report said. They were uphill from the crash site.

      Mosier lost access to its sewer system and wastewater treatment plant as a result of the incident, which saw 16 of the train’s 96 tank cars go off the rails, according to the Associated Press.