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 facility 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 use recycled water only 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.
Borja argued that despite assurances, recycled water is not meant for surfaces used for public activities.
But long-term studies of viruses in tertiary-treated recycled water verify the absence of pathogens in thousands of water samples, utility officials said.
“State law specifies that this water is approved for everything, including swimming,” said Ron Davis, general manager of Burbank Water and Power. “It doesn’t make sense to restrict its use.”
Laws also stipulate that potable water should not be used where suitable recycled water is available.
The state’s interpretation, which has yet to be delivered in writing, is being rebutted by a growing contingent of city departments.
“What we’re trying to do is cut back on expenses,” Mace said, pointing out that recycled water costs roughly 15% less than potable water. “We’re in a water crisis, and the more reclaimed water we can use, the less we rely on potable water.”