Ernie Garza feels like the community of Keyes has won the lottery.
Garza, the general manager of the Keyes Community Services District, heralded the fact that the district received two major grants totaling $30.4 million to ensure safe drinking water within the community.
“The way I look at it, the members of our community hit the lottery, not once, but twice,” said Garza, who’s been the Keyes CSD general manager since 2013. “First for $20 million and now for $10.4 million. To me, that’s a pretty good deal.”
Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden last year, the district received $10.4 million for the construction of a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filtration project that will ensure that the community’s drinking water remains safe.
Low levels of a pesticide residue were discovered in the supply and the filters will ensure the contaminant is completely removed. The filtration plant will be constructed on the empty lot next to the Keyes PAL community center, 5506 Jennie Ave.
Construction is slated to start in October of 2023 with an aim to complete the project in early 2024.
The district also received a $20 million grant from the State of California to consolidate five water systems that contained elevated levels of arsenic. The Keyes CSD constructed an Arsenic Treatment Facility, upgraded water wells and installed transmission lines to four mobile home parks and a Teen Challenge ranch outside of the district’s boundaries. Under Proposition 1, Keyes received the grant because of its financially disadvantaged status.
“Without these grants, our water rates would go through the roof,” said Garza. “And a recent wastewater rate study concluded that we do not have to raise rates for the next five years.”
By way of comparison, Turlock residents have seen their water rates rise each year for the past five years. The City of Turlock in December 2017 approved a new water rate structure that began in 2018, increasing every year for five years, to help service groundwater wells and pay for a $220 million surface water treatment project.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California recognized Keyes because of its proactive approach in consolidating the water systems. On Nov. 2, an event honoring the district was held at the Arsenic Treatment Facility, 4290 Jessup Rd. The event was initiated by the EPA and the State Water Board.
“They praised us for the work we are doing in providing clean and safe drinking water for our community and surrounding communities,” said Garza.