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