Garberville H2O: Contact Chamber, Phillipsville & $50Gs
The Garberville Sanitary District (GSD) moved to obtain a free above-ground contact chamber as a replacement for the broken subterranean one; chose to serve the Phillipsville Community Services District with GSD staff, and learned it is $50,000 ahead of projections in its mid-year budget review at the Board of Directors Meeting, on Tuesday the 27th of February.
The Board approved a proposal to meet General Manager Ralph Emerson’s stated goal of replacing the damaged underground contact chamber with one that sits above ground. Emerson explained the need for the change in design by saying, “With our contact chamber underground, we weren’t able to drain it. We had a couple of instances where we didn’t have enough chlorine in the water and we had to pump it out; we weren’t able to just drain that contact chamber out.”
Engineering consultant Andy Sundquist of Candor Rock, LLP explained the “baffled” contact chamber, manufactured by Highland Tank and Manufacturing Company, has not yet been approved for use in California, “They claim it has been approved for use everywhere on the east coast,” he said. “They do not have a tracer study though. They claim it’s really expensive to perform. So they have the approvals they need on the east coast, but California is telling them they won’t accept it without a tracer study.”
He continued, “We [proposed] the idea of paying the shipping costs and materials to get the tank here, get it installed, California does the tracer study and we see the results there. So there is the risk there, but…”
The deal being proposed is for the District to pay the shipping and installation costs, for the Highland company to give the District the contact chamber saving GSD $6,000.00, while California will pay for the tracer test that is needed. Emerson gave more details,
It benefits them to get us the tank here at no cost or minimal cost because if its approved, and we are confident it will be, then they would be able to sell here, which is huge for them because [California] is the largest market in the United States.
Emerson explained the DDW’s position for requiring the tracer test. He stated,
“The state doesn’t understand; the state is looking at this like its a regular tank like you see all over the hills. They are looking at it like [the water] is going to pass through and there will be pockets that won’t be chlorinated. But when you baffle it, the water comes in, hits a wall, goes up and over the wall, then there’s another wall: It’s mixing like [it] would in serpentine pipes. So that’s going to mix the water, but they’re not factoring that in. They are looking at it like it’s a regular tank.”
In a phone interview a few days later, Ronnean Lund, Sanitary Engineer with the Division of Drinking Water at the State Water Resources Control Board, explained that contact chamber designs vary, and that the water treatment industry prefers long tubes over baffled tanks because tubes eliminate the potential for the water to take a shortcut to the exit. In other words, long tubes better guarantee the disinfection goal is met, according to Lund. She explained that the tracer test must be conducted to assess the efficacy of this manufacturer’s design.
Jenny Short, Special Projects Manager, defined the installation costs of the project as it is proposed, “I just want to make sure the Board understands there is another $120,000.00 we are fairly certain we are going to pay on top of [shipping costs] plus a potential contingency.” This money prepares the site by removing the existing chamber, installing an engineered pad and anchoring infrastructure, as well getting the plumbing in place.
Emerson responded saying, “The original contact chamber was $250,000.00 and that is what the insurance company is aware of. They are aware also of the numbers Andy [Sundquist] has just stated, so that’s what the insurance company is looking at for reimbursement.” However, Emerson also noted the insurance company has not yet written a formal settlement offer.
The Board approved moving forward with the project if the Highland Company accepts the proposal to provide GSD the tank for the cost of shipping.
In the spirit of mutual aid with neighboring districts, Emerson proposed the Board contract for Phillipsville Community Services District (PCSD) to use GSD staff a few hours a week. Phillipsville CSD is without a licensed Water Operator at this time.
As background to the proposal, Emerson admitted to his Board that he had been letting the Phillipsville CSD use his license until Emerson received a call from the California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) notifying Emerson that his license was jeopardy due to that decision.
Ralph Emerson said,
“I was asked if they could use my license just to keep them legal with their reporting. I said ‘sure, go ahead.’ I didn’t charge them for that, but I let them have the license [number] to do that. I wasn’t doing anything up there; they just had the license. Then I got a call from Ronnean [Lund] at the State Water Board telling me ‘did I know about a coliform and e coli hit.’ I told them ‘no, I didn’t.’ I then requested my license to be pulled [away from use by the PCSD] because I was told specifically there was a chance I would lose my license if I wasn’t involved with the sampling and I don’t have the time to be up there doing the sampling, so that is what my request was.
“And then the conversation came [up] about having one of our employees, who lives close by and they have been friends for many years… to be able to utilize him to be their contract Operator.”
Emerson proposed the work by GSD staff for Phillipsville CSD be done outside of GSD business hours, but that Phillipsville CSD contract his employment through GSD.
The GSD Board approved a motion to administer a contract for licensed Operator services to the Phillipsville CSD which is so small it cannot afford to hire a licensed Operator. GSD will have its costs in overtime, workers compensation, and other matters covered in the contract fee to be determined.
While speaking with Lund about the contact chamber, I also asked for comment on the contract with the Phillipsville CSD. Lund said districts are free to make arrangements to work together. Her regional supervisor, Richard Hinricks, Northern California Section Chief was also on the line. He agreed, but he added,
“For an Operator to let a District use his license without being there to supervise the work is like you letting someone use your driver license without you there to do the driving.” And he said, “There are consequences for Operators if we find them doing that.”
Mid-year budget surplus
Jenny Short, who coordinates special projects on a contractor basis, gave the GSD Board a mid-year budget review. Short said the news was so good, she had to check and re-check her calculations “because it’s good news, and I was shocked at how good the good news is.”
Short says GSD budget expenditures are even with predictions for the year, some of which is good luck, “This year Ralph [Emerson] didn’t buy some of the assets at the beginning of the year, so we had [funds] to work with when things started going south. We could just go ‘we’re not going to buy this, this, and this. We are just going to postpone [those purchases.]’”
But Short said the highlights lie on the income side,
“A lot of it is in our water revenue. We are currently at a $50,000.00 net positive in our cash flow with our water revenue. In part, because we are doing bulk water sales, and in part because the water sales themselves, to the meters, are higher than we had projected. I think people are not conserving water because we are no longer under a drought, and so our revenues are a little bit higher than they were last year. We are also seeing some increases in late charges. We have a re-connection fee now, and so that’s adding up. Amongst these ‘other revenue’ things, we have about a $9,000.00 net positive [contribution to the $50,000 net positive cash flow.]”
Short also noted that within five years, the District will have paid off all but one of its loans which will free up revenue to spend on capital improvements.
The Garberville Sanitary District meets the fourth Tuesday of each month. The five member Board has a vacant seat. One must live in the District to be considered for the Board without a special appointment by the County Board of Supervisors. Currently, two of the four Board Members are appointed and living outside the District. Applications are available at the District Office.