Saline Preservation Association

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Posts: 37
MT, how about building a higher stone wall/fence with a small gate?
paul belanger

Posts: 264
Tom, nice to see you, too. 

The fencing of the source ponds only makes sense.  That should be a part of whatever happens out there.  I doubt the chain link fencing that is the likely material to be used will be aesthetically pleasing, but it's better than wildlife drinking from our bath water. 
Major Tom

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Posts: 353
Paul, good on you for starting this thread and explaining the situation. I had planned on doing this today, and you beat me to the punch ... many hands make light work! It was great to see you at the public meeting.

You have summed it up well. A grease trap would resolve the "black-water" portion of the issue. I was surprised to hear the water is not potable, having drank it full time for seven years (albeit between beers, I will admit at that point in my life) and continuing to rely upon it every time I presently visit the springs. 

I asked the Superintendent about why the water is considered non-potable. She did not have an answer, and only offered that her staff had recently sampled the water and drawn that conclusion. I asked, and it is not a result of e-Coli contamination, which the Superintendent explained would have required an immediate shut-down.  I asked for an explanation and clarification of the criteria for non-potability in that case.  Back in '93 I did a rather comprehensive water analysis through CSUB in the valley. This report can be seen at:   . The Park hydrologist has a copy of this report (has had it for years) and I sent a copy to the Superintendent after the meeting. My best guess is that it is a result of the high concentration of total dissolved solids (dissolved minerals resulting from interaction of the water and rock on its underground journey, referred to as TDS).  TDS of springs water is close to 900 ppm and the EPA recommended limits is 500 as I recall.  If this is the case, then with regard to the dish-washing issue, I could not imagine that a bit of extra calcium and bicarbonate would present any sort of health or liability issue. I am looking forward to hearing back from the Superintendent's office for some clarification on this question and will pass that along to you all when I receive it.

A couple of bottom lines here:
  • The Park Service understands that to remove the sinks will result in greater impact to the area.
  • This is one instance where taking the NO ACTION alternative is not an alternative, because in their view, the current situation is a violation of county health laws.
  • I believe the NPS is motivated to come up with a reasonable alternative that addresses the issue.  I will be happy to compile and represent reasonable ideas from our membership, and such suggestions would best be sent to me at:
  • One of the results of addressing this issue will likely be the "sealing" of the sources in some way to prevent the local wildlife (burros, coyotes, etc.) from inadvertently contaminating the water.  We have members who are working on minimal-impact solutions to this issue. 
paul belanger

Posts: 264
What would the NPS think about a black water septic leach field in a national park? That wouldn't be much different than the current settle pool situation, would it?


Posts: 148
I camped on the south side of the lower springs MLK weekend, and observed a high degree of water saturation to the surface, with evaporated mineral residue on top, below the bluff down to the trees, despite negligible precipitation this winter.
I still think that a septic leach field would work to the southwest.
I think Bonneau is coming for president's weekend, so get him into the dialogue.
Bob from Tahoe
paul belanger

Posts: 264
Let me attempt explain the issues here, as I believe I now have a full understanding of it.

First issue is gray water versus black water.  California standard plumbing codes allow the water discharge from the laundry, bathroom sinks and showers to storage for later use in the garden, or to be directly discharged into the garden.  This water is defined as gray water.  Toilets and kitchen sinks are specifically restricted to be discharged into the sewer system.  They are defined as black water.  The toilet for obvious reasons.  The kitchen sink is considered to be black water due to the common practice of meat preparation in the kitchen.  If small pieces of meat were discharged into the garden, maggots and other issues would arise.  Straining it does not change it's inherent issues.

The second issue it that all of the water at the springs is considered to be non-potable.  Washing dishes in non-potable water is also against the plumbing code.  I told Kathy Billings that even if the dish washing stations were removed, people would likely still use the spring's waters to wash dishes.  She said that would be more individual culpability than having a dishwashing station provided (by the blessing of the NPS) that did not meet plumbing standards.  She was seemingly open to discussion of options such as signage to let people know they are at their own risk if they wash dishes in the sinks.

One solution I thought of was to run the discharge of the dishwashing station over to the vault toilets.  We have all seen Lee running a hose from the springs to the vault toilets when he believes they are about to be pumped.  It is my understanding that the desert's aridity turns the contents of the vault toilets in to a solid mass.  Question is, would the vault overflow during periods of heavy use of sinks?  Would it evaporate fast enough?   It would have to be monitored very closely during heavy use, with dishwashing stations shut down if overflow is emminent.  Likely in the winter when the evaporation rate is less.  Though it's always dry, dry, dry, out there, even when it's cold.  Maybe we could set up a test run?  This would alleviate the black water concern, if it turns out to be workable.

The only solution to the non-potable water supply to the dishwashing station would be very harshly worded signage that would have to be considered sacred.  That means no vandalism, please.

Just some thoughts.  I hope this clarifies the issue for some of you.  If we understand the NPS's concerns, we have a better chance of solving the issues.

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