PALMDALE – Palmdale’s sewage treatment plant will get a $271.5 million upgrade and expansion that critics say isn’t sufficient to protect the quality of the Antelope Valley’s well water supply. Under state regulators’ cleanup orders, Los Angeles County Sanitation District 20’s board approved the final environmental impact report Wednesday night for the project, rejecting critics’ contentions that the plan isn’t environmentally sound. “We have to go down this road,” said board member Mike Dispenza, a Palmdale councilman. “There’s no other way to do this.” Treatment plant operators are under orders from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to clean up a groundwater plume contaminated with nitrates, which are nutrients for plants but can cause a condition known as “blue baby” syndrome among infants who drink the water. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Nitrates have leached into the underground water table from Sanitation District 20’s decades-old practice of spreading treated sewage effluent on barren land to soak into the ground. Critics said the sanitation district should use treated and purified sewage effluent to recharge groundwater. Getting rid of the treated effluent by using it to irrigate crops has hurt groundwater quality in the past and threatens to continue to do so in the future, the critics said. “The proposed farming operations represent significant environmental risks,” said Gene Nebeker, an alfalfa farmer and former member of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, the water regulatory body that covers the Antelope Valley. “The proposed condemnation actions are unnecessary and the public will have to pay for imported water if the districts do not recharge the groundwater with their effluent.” Charles Boehmke, head of the sanitation districts’ planning department, said recharge was deemed infeasible for the plan because even if state permission could be acquired, it would require several years to do so. Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, who chairs the sanitation district board, said recharge is an option in the future. However, before that step could be taken there, would need to be a community discussion, he said. In time, Ledford said, the ultimate solution will be municipal reuse – using treated, purified effluent to water golf courses, parks and street landscaping. “We can use that water to green our city and to green our valley,” Ledford said. Sanitation officials’ plan is to acquire nearly 6,000 acres to the north and northeast of Air Force Plant 42. The land would be used for farming crops with effluent treated so it is safe for human contact and for siting reservoirs to store treated water during the winter months, when crops use little irrigation. The treatment plant would be expanded in two phases, with the first phase costing about $150 million. The first phase involves upgrading the plant to provide tertiary, or third-step, treatment; constructing four storage ponds, each capable of holding 385 million gallons; and building water mains and pumping plants to deliver the treated water to agricultural lands. Tertiary treatment makes the water safe for human contact, such as swimming or fishing. The ponds would be completed by October 2008 and the upgrades to the treatment plant would be finished in fall 2009. The second phase would expand the treatment plant from 15 million gallons a day to 22.4 million gallons. Two additional storage ponds would be built. Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!