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County finds way out of Tecopa sewer predicament

October 21, 2010

Local leaders recently approved a contract to have the Tecopa Sewer Lagoon repaired. The repairs will stop the lagoon from leaking, while protecting the habitat of the endangered Amargosa vole. Photo courtesy Inyo County Parks and Recreation

After years of financial challenges and concerns about displacing an endangered species, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors appears to have solved the Tecopa sewer pond problem and will soon have a contractor working on repairs.
Tuesday, the board awarded the $793,370 contract for repairs at the sewer lagoon to Prominent Systems, Inc. of Industry.
Inyo County Parks and Recreation is currently responsible for maintenance and operations at the Tecopa Hot Springs Park and campground, which is located on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
The county will pay for the repairs with money set aside in the Parks and Recreation Department budget and will be reimbursed by a state Department of Parks grant.
According to Public Works Director Ted Pedersen, the western bank of the sewer lagoon has been leaking since April 2001, “resulting in a release of its contents into the surrounding wetlands on the west and north sides of the lagoon.”
In order for the county to extend its current lease with the Bureau of Land Management for the lagoon, Public Works is required to fix the lagoon’s embankment.
“Additionally,” a staff report states, “as a requirement of the Waste Discharge Permit for the site, the Regional Water Quality Control Board also requires that the county repair the embankment to address potential water quality impacts that may result from the leaking embankment.” To fix the lagoon, Prominent Systems, Inc. will install a high-density polyethylene liner on the inner face of both the western and northern embankments of the lagoon and install a diversion to direct discharge from the bathhouses into the adjacent wetlands.
According to Pedersen, “the leaking embankment has created habitat for the Amargosa vole, a federally- and state-listed endangered species.”
Pedersen said the installation of diversion will preserve the habitat for the vole.
Installation of the polyethylene liner will require the contractor to remove the liquid “sludge” from the lagoon, and pump it into a neighboring lagoon to the south, which the county is leasing from the owner to conduct the repairs.
The park and campground will not be closed during construction. However, the construction site will occupy most of the southern portion of the campground, which will be closed to the public.
Also, the bathhouses will need to be closed for a maximum of one day while the sewage diversion is installed. Notices of the closure will be posted at the bathhouses, campground, library and community center at least one month prior to the start of construction to notify the public of the closures and what areas will be impacted by construction.
All sludge that is removed from the lagoon during the construction process will be immediately loaded onto trucks and transported off-site to minimize odors.
The final environmental documents on the project are expected to be completed later this month, at which time construction will begin.
Aside from Prominent Systems, the county received one additional bid, from R&J Joy, Inc. of Portola. That business is a registered small business, however, its bid came to $1,704,543, and even with the 5 percent preference the county gives to small businesses, was higher than Prominent’s offer.

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