Tom Sawyer Lake received some discussion on June 23 during a town hall presentation on the Golden Hills Sanitation Company and the Golden Hills sewer system.
While the public workshop dealt mostly with an update and feedback on how to transition the insolvent sanitation company and its wastewater facility from receivership, the consultant holding the workshop also noted there are possibilities for the lake.
The quality of the lake has declined and most of it has bloomed with alga blooms, or an overabundant growth of algae, even as its shoreline recedes due to evaporation.
Long the only source to sent treated effluent from the sanitation district, Tom Sawyer Lake has become a topic of much discussion, especially since Golden Hills Community Service District purchased it on May 23.
Two options in the transition include continued operation of the wastewater facility in Golden Hills or having Tehachapi. Both options affect how Tom Sawyer Lake is refilled. According to AECOM, the consultant making the presentation, revealed the results of some soil and water quality tests it conducted.
Kevin Kennedy, an AECOM project manager said the company had tested metals, salinity and total dissolved solids from the wastewater that is deposited into the lake from the Golden Hills wastewater treatment facility.
"There were no issues with the metals in relation to the treated effluent," said Kennedy. He added that the total dissolved solids and salinity fall beneath the regulatory requirement.
He added once the wastewater facility changes its filtration system, water dumped into the lake will be good for general human contact.
"It is not suitable for swimming but it is for general touch," Kennedy said. "There are some specific regulations."
During the summer, the water typically evaporates faster than it can be replenished, he added.
He said one goal worth pursuing is the reduction and eventual removal of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which are present in wastewater discharge.
"The existing wastewater treatment plant in Golden Hills has this capability, which is called biological chemical removal," Kennedy said.
Another goal is to find a stable, ongoing recharge of the lake to eliminate or reduce the rate of evaporation in the lake.
William Black, the principal engineer leading the focus study for AECOM, said that the consultants have looked at ways to bring water to Tom Sawyer Lake.
"One of the things we thought of off of the bat is if we pump wastewater to the city of Tehachapi, wouldn't it be nice to pump it back to the lake treated," Black said.
However, the capital costs to set that up would be $2.3 million.
"The fatal flaw to that to this one is that the water is not tertiary (disinfected water), so it is not suitable for human contact," Black said.
Black said another thought is to return to old ways of filling Tom Sawyer Lake when it was still naturally filled. That includes replacing a damaged pump station at a nearby recovery pond, diverting water from Fountain Lake, and supplying it from an irrigation well.
The cost to relocate water from Fountain Lake would cost $271,000, while water from the recovery pond would cost $683,000.
Leroy White, the former owner of the country club and golf course that includes the lake, challenged the ideas for naturally filling the lake.
"That lake can be filled for $2,000," White said. "There is water running underneath where you are wanting to put the reclaimed water. Dig a hole two feet deep and you'll find water."
Another issue, brought up by a Golden Hills resident living near the lake, was the odor. Kennedy, the AECOM project manager, attributed to sediment left over from evaporation.
"Any pond that dries out is going to have a natural or some other type of smell to it," Kennedy said.
When asked if there is a short term solution, Kennedy answered "no."
"There are certain things that can be done, but I think the biggest thing is the water supply," Kennedy said.