The Not So Magical, Magical Bullet


Former Mayor and City Councilman, City of Dixon, California

Mike Ceremello

Mike Ceremello

I have a gift, knack, mental quirk or idiosyncracy which I use for the benefit of all of the citizens of Dixon.  I refuse to take the word of the credentialed supposed experts without thoroughly examining their claims for veracity.  Ever hear of “question authority”, the hippie mantra of the 60’s?  A good example of this is demonstrated in my response to Jack Batchelor’s plaintiff bleatings about the costly $28.5 million “activated sludge” project he is still attempting to foist on us all.

If you watched the Monday meeting where In-Pipe Technologies’ John Williams and his engineer Andrew Neubold gave an introduction to new possibilities, you were probably as hoodwinked as some of the members of the Dixon Chapter taxpayer group who thought I sold them a bill of goods in claiming these new technologies as “stand alone” solutions.  After Jack had repeatedly asked, as well as stated, that the technology was always used with activated sludge, my bet is most think it has to be done that way all the time.

As Hitler’s Joseph Goebbel’s stated, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”  Yes, folks, the power of the progressive left and their methods survived World War II and is alive and doing well in the communist state of Kalifornia.

You have a State Water Board loaded with bureaucrats who hire a few scientists for credibility yet don’t give them free rein to use their knowledge; you have a governor who appoints eco-terrorists or attorneys whose only intent is to control; you have city government all too willing to listen to paid consultants who have “skin in the game” by way of the lucrative contracts for dubious projects.  The common thread running through all of these groups is “telling the big lie”.

So Jack wants to say that the bacteriological treatment offered by In-Pipe is not the magic bullet to solve the State’s concerns at our waste water treatment plant?  What does the treatment do?  Fact: it reduces the load, both solid and liquid, arriving at the treatment plant by half.  Nitrates are converted to nitrogen gas thereby eliminating much of that constituent of concern.  What does activated sludge do within our sewer pipes?  Nothing.

When the water containing the bacteria arrive at the plant, is the treatment over?  No, as the bacteria continue to process the material until all of the ponds are inoculated and the existing bacteria are aided by the strains specifically designed to attack the nutrients available to them.  What does activated sludge do at the plant?

Activated sludge is the same process that John Williams described as “lagoon destruction” in that it stirs up the material allowing more rapid digestion by bacteria.  Activated sludge eliminates the need for all of our holding ponds.  Activated sludge requires the removal of the existing sludge layer, once dried, as well as drying any new sludge after processing with it all being hauled off to a land fill.  I thought we were running out of land fill space?  Is activated sludge adding to this well known problem?  You betcha.

Does In-Pipe’s bacteria remove boron, the State’s largest concern at this point?  Does it reduce total dissolved solids, TDS?  The answer is no.  Does activated sludge?  The answer is still no.  What activated sludge does is to rapidly treat the waste so water is preserved rather than evaporated.  It removes nothing but nitrates, creates further costs with sludge removal, and is a first step toward tertiary treatment which will cost you even more.  Don’t believe me?  Go talk to Royce Cunningham, our former city engineer, who is now working at Vacaville’s sewer treatment plant which cost upward of $200 million to construct several times thanks to ongoing demands from the State Water board.

So we have confirmed that In-Pipe alone is not the magic bullet but seems to accomplish much of the same which activated sludge does at a cost of $500,000 per year rather than $28.5 million plus ongoing operating costs of activated sludge.  Rather than throwing up my hands, as Jack Batchelor, Dane Besneatte, Jerry Castañon, and Steve Bird do, I look for additional solutions.  That is where ferrate treatment comes into play.

Ferrate, also known as plus 6 Iron or Fe+6, is a highly oxidative ion which “In a single application, Ferrate can simultaneously perform as an oxidant, coagulant, and disinfectant.”  According to Luke Daly’s multiple websites for Ferrate Treatment Technologies, LLC, the final product is ecologically benign as ferric hydroxide.  The amazing part of this treatment is the wide range of substances removed, everything from pharmaceuticals to pesticides.  In a separate study with documentation data on Lake Apopka in Florida, heavy metals plus boron are removed along with 95% of Kjeldahl nitrogen.  The cost of this including construction has been estimated at $1.35 million.

Again from their website, “Least Expensive Green Technology – Ferrate is a truly unique compound that offers an economical and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional water and wastewater treatment technologies.  For many applications, the capital equipment cost and aggregate operating expenses associated with Ferrate are appreciably less than other methods of treatment.  Ferrate synthesis uses commodity chemicals already found in most water and wastewater treatment plants, and a Ferrate treatment system utilizes less real estate and consumes less energy. In terms of its impact on the environment, Ferrate is a genuinely green technology that is both effective and affordable.

But is this the magic bullet and a stand alone project?  One key aspect left out is the ultimate byproduct of ferrate treatment.  While the founders of this company have stated that slow release potassium fertilizer can be produced, it is unclear whether solids still need to be carted off … or do they?  Sounds like more study is needed before any final conclusions can be reached.

Back to the activated sludge comparison where the question remains “does activated sludge remove heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, or boron?  The answer is no.  The question you should now be asking yourselves is this: how can the mayor and the oh so concerned remainder of the council continue to endorse a solution which is even less of a magic bullet than either of these options?  In case they don’t understand, let me say it one more time at an intelligence and educational level they might understand: ACTIVATED SLUDGE IS NO MAGIC BULLET OR STAND ALONE SOLUTION.

So once again I have shown why the alternate technology is so much more desirable.  Why isn’t staff impressing this on the council as well as the State Water board?  At least Jim Lindley, much to the chagrin and consternation of the mayor, was  enthusiastically receptive to the potential for operating cost savings using this technology combined with activated sludge.  The larger point is we don’t need activated sludge period.  Yet we continue to steam roll down that road.

One would think that Jack Batchelor is getting a kick back from Stantec due to his blind support of their project.  I watched Steve Bird’s reaction to Dane Besneatte’s support of allowing the people to vote on the sewer rate increase.  Fear is all I saw from Steve.

As a police officer you have to fear the public.  The public is your enemy because we are always potential perps as in perpetrators.  You can’t trust us to do the right thing.  We have to be ordered what to do and when to do it.  Bull.

Going back to the bottom line, do we support doing a $28.5 million project which does little or do we offer the State two projects for under $2 million which actually address their concerns, if those truly are their concerns?  The only way to stop the city council and staff from doing something this foolish is either to remove them from office or put an initiative on the ballot to rescind the rate increase.  Or we could do both.

It was interesting talking to one of their supporters at Grillin’ and Chillin” who told me we should build all we can now and more than we need because the dollar cost will be lower now rather than later.  If you believe this malarkey, we should be building a tertiary treatment plant because, using his logic, the State will eventually demand it and it will provide for future capacity demands.  His reaction?  It isn’t needed now.

Well activated sludge isn’t needed now either nor would we have to build all of it even if we were to decide it was needed, given the In-Pipe solution.  Obviously you don’t understand purchasing power or the devaluation of the currency if you make the argument it is cheaper now.  All that you can truly say to the illogic of wanting to fully fund a partial solution yet refusing to embrace the full solution is “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”.

The bad old boy status quo never wants to consider solutions other than their own.  I am not stuck on In-Pipe or ferrate treatment.  Give me additional solutions to consider.  That is the difference between me and them … all of them.  They don’t think.  They react.

There will be an air tight initiative designed to establish our own sewer rates at a level which will allow for continuing costs of operation of the plant as they stand today.  We have to establish our own rates because a simple repeal would allow the council to raise rates again the very next day.

Yes, they are playing games.  I would apologize to you all for having to sign a second petition after doing protests, but you can blame the council for forcing you into this situation as well as denying you the right to vote.

Many of you are asking when the recall will start.  It would be wise to concentrate on placing the sewer rate rollback on the ballot first.  The council will moan and groan about the cost of a special election.  Remember, they have had several opportunities to place it on the regular election ballot and have refused because they don’t trust YOU!  Once that is done, we can take care of the real problem given to you by the Rot – ary and the beautiful people plus the union leadership.

And that is your real magic bullet …


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