Blue Lakers Can Flush With Pride

Benjamin Fordham
Mad River Union

BLUE LAKE – If you flush a toilet in Blue Lake these days, you will be happy to know that the effluence is now headed straight to the North Coast Region’s Wastewater Plant of the Year. The award, which is given by the California Water Environmental Association (a non-profit trade organization), honors exceptional wastewater facilities throughout the state.

The plant was nominated by Mike Foget of the scientific consulting firm SHN, which designed the plant’s upgrades. Foget also acts as Blue Lake’s City Engineer. “It’s nice for the city,” said Foget. “That’s the first time they’ve won an award for something like this.”

The award was given in part because of upgrades, including the reinforcement and paving of the dykes separating the plant’s five ponds. The dykes, which were built in the 1950s, were beginning to erode and were in need of replacement. The plant uses a low-tech, gravity-fed lagoon pond system which utilizes anaerobic decomposition to break down solids. “We let gravity and nature do its work, and we just keep everything healthy,” said Public Works Supervisor Glenn Bernald.

Recent upgrades to the plant also include the improvement of buildings, and improvements and repairs to the weir boxes and leaching system. Bernald said that the plant is now using one-quarter the amount of chlorine that it used two years ago thanks to the upgrades. The end result is water that is safe enough to drink, if you were so inclined.

The plant upgrades were made possible by the Blue Lake Rancheria, which provided 30 percent of the funds via a direct grant to the city, and 70 percent in the form of a zero-interest loan.

“It’s a very unique partnership,” said Foget. The Rancheria provided the funding in part because the upgrades were necessary to accommodate the hotel adjacent to the Blue Lake Casino.

“We thank the tribe for making this happen,” said Blue Lake City Manager John Berchtold. “They’re the ones that made this possible.”

In all, the upgrades have provided the city with an aesthetically pleasing treatment plant that is well-equipped for the next 50 years, and a regional award to boot. “For a small city to receive an award of this type, that’s a significant accomplishment,” said Bernald. “I think it reflects very highly on the staff and the engineers.”

“It took an effort from everyone to be able to do this,” he added.

The North Coast region covers all of Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties, as well as parts of Mendocino and Siskiyou counties.

Having won the regional award, the plant is now eligible for the statewide competition.

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