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Residents raise concerns about aquifer program

By: Lauren Weber, The Press-Tribune
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The saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” couldn’t be more true than in the case of water. It’s something people use every day to drink, wash and bathe in and the city of Roseville has been testing out a system to have water when the city needs it most. Roseville’s Aquifer Storage Recovery program began approximately five years ago and recently completed its phase two testing, but not without some hiccups. Residents, many from Sun City Roseville, within the zone of influence of the ASR, raised concerns at at last week’s city council meeting regarding taste, odor, hardness and sodium levels of the water they have used for more than a year. Derrick Whitehead, director of environmental utilities for the city, addressed council members and attendees at the meeting to discuss and provide updates on the ASR program. “This is a great opportunity for us because we’re very close to the American River, we have the infrastructure in place and it’s an opportunity for us to store that water for future needs in a time when we might not have water available to us in the driest situation,” Whitehead said. The ASR program takes treated surface water in times of abundance, such as winter and heavy rainfall, injects it underground and is able to store the water and extract it in times of drought for resident use. But what many Sun City residents brought to council members’ attention was the immediate change some had to face. The hardness of the water resulted in appliances that needed replacement and some residents complained of rashes from soap suds left in their clothes after washing. “We had more serious problems than taste and odor,” Sun City Roseville resident Linda Manion said at the meeting. “It can’t be a coincidence that for the 18 months we were on that water, that Sun City Roseville residents experienced skin irritations. Some had to go see doctors about it.” Manion was one of a handful of residents addressing concerns about the ASR program. “Water is not like any other service the city provides. This is something we’re exposed to everyday. It’s something we consume. It’s not something we can choose not to use,” she said. Despite the negative comments some residents expressed, others brought up a positive side. Roseville resident and owner of La Provence Restaurant Stephen Des Jardins, said his home, office and restaurant were all affected by the ASR program, but he understood it was a testing phase. “I understand the other issues and identify with not getting clothes cleaned and things like that,” he said. “But it’s letting an incredibly valuable resource get away from you. You should not do that. I really hope that we can stay on the notion that we should save this resource in the rare time and not let it run away from us.” Communities in Las Vegas, Santa Barbara and Sacramento rely on ground water or ASR programs for some of their water. The ASR water is in compliance with the California Department of Public Health and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and therefore is safe for everyday use, Whitehead said. “The water that we provided in the distribution system coming from the well was in perfect compliance with the department of health, for protection of human health. The water was different; it had different primary constituents in it. It was hard, it tasted heavier, there were notices of taste and odor,” Whitehead said. “But when I weigh that with the other side of this, what happens if we didn’t have surface water available and we had not done the aquifer structure recovery?” Whitehead also added that ASR is a more environmentally friendly and is an inexpensive program compared to building concrete water storage tanks. No action was taken at the city council meeting, but four wells throughout Roseville are in different stages of construction to continue the ASR program. The next use of ASR water will either be through another testing phase or during times of drought, Whitehead said.