Camino plant getting improved remote control

By Michael Raffety 8-18-14

The Camino Wastewater Treatment Plant is in the process of getting a nearly $60,000 upgrade to its remote control system.

Called SCADA, it stands for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. It is a secure system that operates completely independently of the El Dorado Irrigation District’s business systems.

Currently the plant is somewhat remotely controlled from the Deer Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. There is a remote control system in effect, but “the automation lacks proper integration, resulting in increased labor hours to respond to facility start-up, general operational changes, trouble calls, communication interruptions and weather related operational challenges,” according to a July 14 staff report that led the EID board to approve the contract with ControlPoint Engineering.

The Camino plant is one of four satellite wastewater plants EID operates. The other three are Gold Ridge Forest, the El Dorado Lift Station and Rancho Ponderosa.

Gold Ridge Forest is a community septic leach field and EID’s main service is to pump out septic tanks semiannually. The El Dorado Lift Station also has a pond and a treatment facility. Rancho Ponderosa (Skinner Lane near Ponderosa Road) has been replaced with a sewer lift station and the district is awaiting action by the state to release it from responsibility for the treatment operation that is no longer needed.

The Camino plant serves the 121 residences of Camino Heights and the golf course. The total population is about 315, according to Vickie Caulfield, division manager for wastewater/recycled water operations.

The Camino plant is completely self-contained. In other words, it doesn’t discharge treated water into the watershed. Deer Creek and the El Dorado Hills wastewater treatment plants release treated water into Deer Creek and Carson Creek, respectively. Those two plants must treat the wastewater to tertiary treatment standards. Tertiary means purification by removal of fine particles, nitrates and phosphates.

The Camino plant consists of three ponds that disinfect the wastewater with hypochlorite. The plant has a treatment capacity of 60,000 gallons per day. The wastewater flows into the treatment plant and is screened for large debris and plastics, followed by three treatment aeration ponds. It is further disinfected before being pumped to a 4.5 acres sprayfield for distribution on land. In the winter, when the ground is more saturated, the final destination of the water is through subdrip irrigation lines buried at 18 inches below ground.

Any excess from the spray field is captured and pumped back to Pond No. 3 for further treatment and filtration

At this point in the summer only two ponds are operating with aerators running just about 24 hours a day. The aerators disperse the nitrogen into the air and prevent algae formation. A solids sorter collects nonfecal, non-dissolvable material that gets flushed down toilets and compresses it for further removal to a landfill. Due to low flows during summer months, the third pond is out of service.

A backup generator has been added because of power outages that happen in Camino in the winter. That generator will be connected to the remote control system to allow for automatic transfer of power.

Summer inflow to the Camino system was 13,000 gallons per day in 2012, nearly 12,000 gpd in 2013 and 9,623 gpd so far in this drought year, according to Caulfield.

In the summer the only water coming into the wet well and return pump down below the spray field is ground water. That is checked twice a week, but because it is only normal, clean ground water, it is allowed to flow over to the watershed. When the entire system is operating during winter the return pump will operate for a full 24 hours once the well fills up.

There are also several standpipes (piezometers for groundwater depth measurements) used to calculate the depth of ground water. That information is given to a consulting geologist who maps and monitors groundwater flow through EID’s forest and meadow field of spray irrigation and subsurface drip irrigation. The subsurface drip irrigation is used during rain periods, Caulfield indicated.

Besides measuring groundwater, the technician from the Deer Creek plant also collects water samples at Camino that are taken to the test facility at El Dorado Hills Wastewater Treatment Plant. That test facility is run by an independent lab.

A qualified plant operator will still need to come twice a week from Deer Creek to Camino to run tests and calibrate the SCADA system to ensure accuracy. The enhanced SCADA system will allow the Deer Creek operators to restart the plant remotely and turn on the generator if the power is out.

It will also eliminate emergency trips to Camino, though staff will still have to travel to Camino during winter storms.

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