YUCCA VALLEY — The sewer project made a leap forward Thursday morning as officials from Yucca Valley and the state of California cut the ribbon and opened the wastewater reclamation facility, the first of its kind in the high desert.
Located on land south of Twentynine Palms Highway and west of La Contenta Road, the facility pumps in wastewater from pipes across town and treats it through ultraviolet light and membrane technology, which uses spaghetti-like filters to clean water. The treated water will be released into ponds, where it will filter through the ground and feed the aquifer.
While the facility is not operational yet, the district is will be running operational checks and the first flush is set for November.
On Thursday morning dozens of property owners, residents and environmentalists in the Morongo Basin gathered at the facility for guided tours and the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Hi-Desert Water District board President Dan Munsey welcomed the crowd and spoke about the history of the project, saying that it dates back decades.
“We kept pushing it down the road,” he said. “But in the end we were polluting our groundwater.”
State regulators had been saying Yucca Valley had to discontinue the use of septic tanks and build a wastewater treatment system for decades. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 287 million gallons of untreated wastewater from septic tanks reaches Yucca Valley’s aquifer every year.
In 2011, the state prohibited wastewater discharge from septic systems for parts of Yucca Valley. That ban goes into effect on June 30, 2021, for the downtown area, and on Dec. 30, 2025, for much of the rest of the town.
“It was a community problem,” Munsey said. “That problem is solved.”
Dawn Rowe, 3rd District Supervisor for the county of San Bernardino and a Yucca Valley resident, spoke at the ceremony and added that the septic system was unsustainable and stopped several businesses and developments from coming into Yucca Valley.
“It will bring businesses here,” she said. “It will give us a better quality of life, of course with the groundwater, but also in the bringing of jobs to the high desert.”
Yucca Valley Mayor Robert Lombardo echoed her thoughts and recognized the community for their understanding during the project, which has caused construction in nearly every neighborhood in Yucca Valley.
He said he knows the construction has been difficult for many, but septic was unsustainable and he hopes everyone can recognize that.
“It is with great pleasure that with the cutting of the blue ribbon, (septic) will all be behind us soon,” he said.
With that, the Hi-Desert Water District Board of Directors cut the ribbon and opened the facility.