Irvine desalter project
Pumps soon will begin removing legacy of farm chemicals.
By JEFF ROWE
The Orange County Register
IRVINE – A legacy of agricultural bounty soon will come to the surface
The Irvine Ranch Water District is about to begin a project to remove the residue of agriculture fertilizers – nitrates – and naturally occurring salts in an area mostly north and west of the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
The water district is testing the desalter project now and plans to start the $34 million project by the end of the year. It will employ five wells and pass the water through a series of filters to remove the salts and nitrates.
Every year, the desalter system will process enough water to cover a soccer field a mile deep. The wells are 12 to 16 inches in diameter and will draw water from depths of 180 to 1,015 feet in a water-laden zone of sand and rock, according to district spokeswoman Marilyn Smith.
Once the water is processed, it will be piped into the district's drinking water purification system, now being completed across from district headquarters.
The project will continue until the salt and nitrate levels in the groundwater meet state and federal standards, Smith said.
The desalter project parallels a Navy project on the old air base to remove a solvent that was used to clean aircraft parts; groundwater is being pumped up and treated to remove the contaminants. Once that water is cleaned, it will be recycled and used for landscaping and toilets in office buildings. None of that water is to be used for drinking.
The Navy effort is expected to last 30 years. The desalter project may take longer, Smith said.
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