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Water Treatment Plant OKd for Lake Hughes

Times Staff Writer

Work is expected to begin next month on a water treatment plant near Lake Hughes to replace leaking septic tanks that have contaminated the lake.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday awarded a $4.2-million contract for the project to Speiss Construction Co., which is expected to finish the plant by the spring of 1990.

The action comes after eight years of debate that at times polarized the 1,000 residents in the unincorporated town of Lake Hughes, 58 miles north of Los Angeles.

Some residents had feared that a treatment plant would encourage growth that would destroy the rural character of the old resort town, which is surrounded by the Angeles National Forest. Even worse, many said, monthly payments to maintain the plant would force homeowners to leave.

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In response, other residents said a treatment plant was the only way to restore the lake, which was declared a health hazard by county officials in 1980. Residents supporting a treatment plant even held yard sales, chili dog festivals and other events to raise $18,000 for necessary engineering studies.

Greenish Tint

Over the years, the 135-acre lake has developed a greenish tint from accumulated algae, and residents say it sometimes stinks in hot weather. Health officials say swimmers and anglers could contract such diseases as salmonella and hepatitis A from the water.

Despite warnings from health officials, people continue to use the lake. “People still go out there and swim in that muck,” said Sherry Foote, an aide to Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whose district includes the area.

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The plant will be built to handle 93,000 gallons of sewage a day. Initially, the small community will generate about 38,000 gallons a day. The treated water will be used for irrigation, Foote said.

The state’s Water Resources Control Board will contribute about $1.6 million to the project, Foote said. A grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency will add $1.7 million, and $853,000 in federal grants earmarked for Antonovich’s district will complete the funding.

Once the system is completed, users will pay $34 a month to maintain it.

A few years ago, the Regional Water Quality Control Board imposed a moratorium on new building in Lake Hughes to halt growth that could lead to further pollution of the lake.

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