[UPDATE Monday] More Information on the GSD Boil Water Notice

Garberville water district

Garberville Sanitary District water treatment facility [Photo by Kelley Lincoln]

Some residents in Garberville were startled to read on the Redheaded Blackbelt and other outlets Saturday evening that they were under a Boil Water Notice for an incident that began Friday night. They had not received any phone messages or emails that a problem existed.

Ralph Emerson, GSD General Manager, says crew found water coming out of the ground on Friday evening while Emerson was out of town, attending to the birth of his 11th grandchild, Mr. Pierce Orion Emerson.

GSD Has a Backup Water Source

The crew phoned Emerson, and it was decided to turn off the water coming through the treatment plant from the river and switch to utilizing the district’s well up near Chautauqua, called the Tobin Well. Tobin Well is a groundwater source which is chlorinated on site before distribution.

Interaction with the Regulatory Agency

Ralph Emerson said the District reported the incident to the State’s Drinking Water Division in a timely way. He also reports the DWD both said the water was probably safe between the time the incident started and when it was discovered and said that the boil water notice needed to go out.

What Happened

The water coming from the ground at the water treatment plant was identified as the 30 inch diameter pipe that constitutes the contact chamber. The contact chamber is where the treated surface water and the chlorine spend time together to make certain the chlorine and the water have mixed sufficiently.

Wahlund Construction came to unearth that contact chamber tubing Saturday morning, and Emerson says the twenty feet of it they dug out had spiral fractures in it. Emerson says they don’t know why yet, and their engineer will come evaluate the situation this next week. Emerson said they have not identified evidence of shifting ground causing the problem.

The Water Stayed Chlorinated

According to Emerson, the reason the water did not become unsafe is a function of geography. Because there is a long distance of pipe between the treatment plant and District customers, even with the contact chamber failing, the water had the mixing time it needs to ensure all the water has contact with chlorine and is, therefore, safe to drink.

Because it is the weekend, Ronine Lund of the Drinking Water Division of California Environmental Health Department isn’t yet available for comment.

Communications Need Improvement

District procedure for getting word to people needs updating, Emerson said. The current procedure is to personally call everyone. Emerson said he started the phone list but later discontinued the direct notification because he felt the press release to local news outlets and on the District’s website met the State’s requirements in this scenario. He also reports the District does not have a database with email addresses for their customers.

Emerson said if the water had been unsafe, he and staff would have gone door to door to be certain people knew about the problem. And he said, to assess the situation while the pipe was broken, the crew has been taking samples throughout the incident. Locally, the crew could test that the chlorine levels were correct, but the District will get more thorough lab results Monday evening to confirm that all has been safe throughout the weekend.

UPDATE Monday, November 26th: A full presentation will be given to the Board if Directors Tuesday evening, but it seems Operator Brian Miller was in the building when the incident began Friday evening. Miller says he heard a bang strong enough to send him running outside to see what had happened. He soon discovered the water coming up out of the ground.  Engineers were out today but weren’t yet sure what had led to the failure if the contact chamber. It doesn’t appear to be vandalism, but some kind of equipment failure.



  • I’m not that worried I didn’t hear about this boil order until I saw it on RHB. But I will say in 30 years of being on the GBV Sanitary District water supple I have NEVER ever been personally contacted when there has been a boil order. So Yeah, the notification process needs some real attention. Multi-pure filters are pretty highly rated for filtration on a home water supply.

  • Again, allot of talk, but no real information, i.e. can you cook or take a bath/shower? How come the public can not read the actual “Boil Water Order” or “Notice” as you call it?

    For example: He also reports the DWD both said the water was probably safe between the time the incident started and when it was discovered and said that the boil water notice needed to go out.

    “probably”, The State Division of Drinking Water used the word “probably”?

    Here’s what was posted on GSD’s website 11/25/17: https://www.garbervillesd.org/gsd-customers

    It’s not even on GSD letter head, just a plain typed word document and no one put their name on it…

    Then you stated this: Tobin Well is a groundwater source which is chlorinated on site before distribution.

    At what point does the water from “Tobin Well” get “chlorinated”? Is there a back-up chlorinator between the Tobin Well and the main water storage tank on the hill? Or is GSD just pouring chlorine into the main water storage tank?

    And how come this “chlorine contact chamber” has to be buried under ground? Chlorine is very corrosive. Was this pipe made to be used as an chlorinator/chlorine contact chamber with high levels of chlorine?

    This “MORE INFORMATION ON THE GSD BOIL WATER NOTICE” only gave the public pertinent information about Emerson’s “11th grandchild” being born, not any real public information concerning the “Boil Water Order or Notice”!

    Did any of this “chlorine contact chamber” leak drain into the river or the Community Park’s protected wetland habitat?

    • I thought it was very informative. I wondered if the boil water notice meant that people had been exposed to unsafe water but they hadn’t.

      The purpose was to inform users of current risks, not to jusify the whole history and technology of water purification. Sheesh.

      • According to whom “I wondered if the boil water notice meant that people had been exposed to unsafe water but they hadn’t”? Kelley Lincoln? She didn’t quote anyone and no one from GSD was on the record. So who are you putting all your trust in?

        Knowing GSD, the public will never know the truth about what happened, how it was fixed and how it affected the drinking water. All we know for sure, something happened and they had to notify the state…

  • Trillium Hummingbird

    Strongly recommended: All employees of the GSD be replaced with persons competent, honest, and present. These are paid public employees, and it seems like they are doing a pretty poor job. A word to the wise!

    If you want to drink the water, and not just water your pot, you might want to think about boiling it.

    What’s normal in Garberville, is considered to be unacceptable in most other places. This is true at Jerold Phelps Hospital, for sure.

    Illegal processes and public employees on drugs are just par for the Garberville course.

    Fire all the board members at every public agency! Drink beer. Hope you don’t get sick in Garberville!

    AND: if Garberville water makes you ill, best get yourself somewhere South of Healdsburg for treatment! No competent care available in Lotus-land!

  • A what point did you add your “UPDATE Monday, November 26th”; before or after the KMUD news report and interview with Ralph Emerson?


    And where did this come from and why was it thrown into the mix? “It doesn’t appear to be vandalism, but some kind of equipment failure.”

    Who thought it was “vandalism”? GSD? Or did you just insert the word to draw attention away from the fact GSD built their $5 Million Dollar water treatment plant in a wetland that is known for its seismic and landslide instability? Funny, you never could have built a permitted residential house on that site, but they built a state of the art water treatment plant instead. I guess you get what you pay for…

    The $5 Million Dollar question would be, what caused the “equipment failure”?

  • Here is a past News report about GSD, maybe it was a warning of things to come? or maybe just karma?


    Have you talked with or interviewed “Ronine [sic] Lund” with the State Division of Drinking Water (formerly California Department of Public Health)? Maybe ask them about the “geography” and choice of site location where GSD built their Surface Water Treatment Plant? After all, over $3.4 Million came from CDPH to build it…

    Maybe, just maybe, when that big landslide/mudslide creeped into the water treatment plant back in 2014, the weight of all that dirt, rock, rain, mud and equipment caused this failure to the underground “30 inch diameter pipe that constitutes the contact chamber”, just say’n…

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