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City in tussle over recycled water irrigation

August 04, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BURBANK — Plans to use recycled water to cool and maintain new athletic facilities at two city high schools have become ensnarled in a bureaucratic tussle since county officials indicated the irrigation plans were prohibited under state law.

Under a joint spending plan reached between the City Council and Burbank Unified, which last year pledged $13.4 million and $4.7 million, respectively, three athletic facilities at Jordan Middle School, and Burbank and John Burroughs high schools are scheduled to receive major face-lifts.

Both governing boards reached separate agreements, at least in part, because of the forward-thinking use of recycled water, Burbank Unified School District President Dave Kemp said.


Under the plan, the grass at John Burroughs High School’s Memorial Field will be replaced with artificial turf as part of a $12-million project that includes facility upgrades and the installation of an all-weather track. The Burbank High field and all-weather track installation, three weeks away from completion, is expected to cost $4 million.

Both fields at the time of approval were slated to use reclaimed water to keep the artificial surfaces cool before games. But plans to use only recycled water at the new Burbank High have been shelved while the California Department of Public Health assesses the health implications.

County health officials, who recently referred the matter to the state, maintain that the school must only use recycled water between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and that the synthetic surface must be totally dry before each use.

“It’s not a water-conservation issue at all because the schools in Burbank already use recycled water,” said Carlos Borja, program director for cross-connection and water pollution control. “This is a health-related issue. Recycled water has inherent limitations.”

Title 22 calls for a higher level of treatment and reliability as the potential for human contact with recycled water increases, said Bill Mace, assistant general manager for water systems at the city’s utility. Recycled wastewater goes through three levels of treatment at water reclamation plants. The first treatment removes large solids, the second uses bacteria to remove 90% to 95% of the remaining solids and the third treatment process includes advanced filtration methods or reverse osmosis. Chlorine is also used to destroy bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.

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