HEBER – Members of the Heber Public Utility District Board (HPUD) were all smiles as they hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday for an updated, improved, and expanded water treatment plant that has doubled the capacity, helps meet fire flow requirements, and prepares the town for potential future residential and commercial customers.
Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (56th Assembly District) and representatives of State Sen. Ben Hueso (40th District) were on hand to witness the unveiling and presentation of the upgraded facility. Engineers and plant operators alike walked guests through all the updated features and explained the expansion project.
In 2011 it was discovered Heber’s water treatment plant did not meet the fire flow rates for potential future developments. Reports said the plant was working at 85 percent over its capacity, and was putting out water that was out of compliance with Environmental Protection Agency and state contamination levels in disinfection byproducts.
At that time, the HPUD initiated the process of applying for assistance from the Department of Public Health, and Sen. Hueso began drawing up legislation to assist low-income, rural communities like Heber to become viable for grant funding and loans at zero percent interest.
California voters passed Proposition 1A, allowing Heber to completely fund the project with a $5 million grant and $4.8 million in zero percent interest loans. Residents of Heber were only subjected to a small monthly tax increase to help HPUD to meet its debt coverage requirements within a two-year period.
The project was contracted out to Pacific Hydrotech Corporation of Perris, California. The construction and improvements included relocating backwash pumps, installing a new backwash pump station, expanding electrical power, adding a new generator set, updating SCADA system, installing a static mixing station, a new raw water pump station, adding a clarifier, finishing a water pump station, and installing baffles along with a handful of other additions.
Diahna Garcia-Ruiz, HPUD board president, said the plant is now producing quality water and the capacity had doubled. The Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) have dropped by over 50 percent, putting the city in compliance, she said.
“(This is) not just for our homes being built — we have about 700 homes coming down the pike — but the growth everywhere,” Garcia-Ruiz said. “It will bring other commercial entities in here (making it) a win-win for everybody.”
“We had the plans, we knew what we needed, we knew everything. We just didn’t have the money,” she said.
Officials said the improvements give Heber greater opportunities to grow and develop. It also means today’s Heber residents can rest assured the treatment of the water taking place in this facility is delivering clean safe drinking water to the community.
“Many times, it’s unfortunate there are pockets still throughout California that can’t (have) that same comfort,” said Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia. “There is not a single doubt in my mind that the leadership here at the public utility, in collaboration with their other partners, were able to make this happen.”
“We are excited,” said Laura Fisher, HPUD general manager. “It means that Heber as a community can grow and that is amazing as well, because now more services and benefits will happen for things like more parks, and schools and all kinds of other things to benefit from so we are very happy.”
“We are ready and open for business, because we have water and sewer capacity,” she added. “We are very much ready for the future and the future generations of Heber and we are ready and open for businesses to come in.”