The Kern County Board of Supervisors appointed a consulting firm last week to help find a solution to the sewage problems that have beleaguered the Golden Hills Sanitation Company since the privately-owned wastewater treatment plant went into receivership in April 2012.
At its Tuesday, March 4, meeting the board approved an agreement with the firm AECOM to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study, which Supervisor Zack Scrivner says will help the company find the most cost-effective and permanent solution for its customers.
"I am pleased that this report will be conducted so that all parties involved in the Golden Hills sewer issues may have an independent analysis that will show the best way forward," Supervisor Zack Scrivner said in a news release.
"I am confident this report will show the residents of Golden Hills, the county, and the Golden Hills Sanitation Company a workable plan that protects the health of the community, and the rate and taxpayer's dollars."
AECOM is a provider of technical and management support services throughout the world, according to the company's website.
The study will be funded by a $289,000 grant awarded by the State Water Resources Control Board.
It will take just over 400 days to complete the study, according to Barbara Miller, the executive administrative assistant to the Receiver, Clifford Bressler.
Bressler was appointed by Kern County Superior Court in April 2012 to manage the company's affairs by Kern County Superior Court after it was determined to be insolvent. Even substantially increased rates for the company's relatively small customer base were not enough to keep the operation going without subsidy.
Representatives of the county, along with Golden Hills Community Services District, the City of Tehachapi and the Receiver have been working to address the problem.
Last December, representatives of Kern County Waste Management hosted a public hearing at the CSD headquarters to outline potential solutions for continued sewer services.
Tying into the City of Tehachapi's sewer system by constructing a pump station and 3-inch diameter force main or making improvements to the current plant were among the best options discovered in a study conducted by the group.
Those two options will be further examined by AECOM, which Miller said will take a holistic approach to its study by taking a number of factors into account, including ownership of the plant, environmental impacts, sources of funding, as well as the situation with Tom Sawyer Lake.
Tom Sawyer Lake, which sits on private property not owned by the Golden Hills Community Services District, is currently the only destination for treated effluent discharged by the wastewater treatment plant.
Miller encourages customers to be engaged in the process, "Since AECOM is so willing to work with them and hear them, and I really feel there will be transparency to the process." "It's a wonderful opportunity to be involved," she said.
Representatives of AECOM will host multiple public hearings starting in early April to collect public input and keep customers up to date on the feasibility study. Dates have not yet been announced.
"One of the things that AECOM mentioned is that what they want to hear from the community when they do this public meeting is they want to hear what vision people in the community have for the use of the treated water since water is so valuable," she said.
"AECOM has indicated that they have an interest in what the customers have to say," Miller said.