Garberville Water News: of Boiling Water, Cannabis Water Use, and More

GSD’s water treatment plant [Photo by Kelley Lincoln]

Tuesday’s Garberville Sanitary District Board of Directors (GSD) meeting covered a lot of ground. The board apologized for mishandling the Boil Water Order, heard from the interim Administrative Assistant Mary Nieto about what is being done to streamline emergency communication to ratepayers in the future; heard from a business owner about her need for GSD to finalize policy regarding cannabis businesses, heard a presentation from Greenwired on how GSD may be able to cut up to $57,000 in energy costs each year and heard the Rate Study committee recommend a $3.50 savings each month to the ratepayers.

Water Treatment Plant Incident

The meeting started with an apology letter read with heart by Board President Linda Broderson. The incident leading to this apology is still under investigation.

Operators Dan Arreguin and Brian Miller were in the building when the incident began. According to them, they had just turned off the noisy equipment of the water treatment plant when they heard a series of sounds that made them think the exterior pipes of the treatment were pulling apart and its large bolts were hitting the building. As it was happening, Brian said he wanted out of the building quickly. Dan said he felt safer staying inside away from whatever shrapnel might be flying around.

The noise ceased in short order, and they investigated.  The Operators found, on the south side of the building, air boiling out of the ground where the contact chamber is buried. Air was bubbling up through the few inches of standing water “from every crack and crevice in the ground,” explained Brian.

The broken contact chamber [Photo by Kelley Lincoln]

The contact chamber is currently partially unearthed and clearly in shambles from whatever happened. There was no indication that anything was amiss until the explosion. The engineers who looked at it have said that for some reason pressure built up in the chamber. The engineers also said the type of pipe used may not have been suitable for this application.  General Manager Emerson has said there is no flow reduction valve on the unit which he thinks may have contributed to the problem.

Just minutes before this happened, the Operators had shut the plant down to do a regular maintenance duty called a “wash out” of the filtered sediment.

Because of the timing, the District knew that no unchlorinated water had entered the system. Soon the Tobin well was turned on to supply water while repairs were made.

Tobin well can only supply a little over half the water the town typically uses in a day during winter. The District keeps their tanks full as a matter of course, so they had about a two and a half day supply of water on hand and in the Tobin well to extend that supply another day or two.

The District worked quickly to repair the water treatment plant to get the river supply back online. The Operators express admiration for Wahlund Construction who moved very quickly to support the district. Wahlund’s equipment was in Crescent City at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 24 when the District reached them. Nonetheless, even with a six-hour round trip to Cresent City, the company was on-site in Garberville, with their equipment, by 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

After confirming the contact chamber was the problem, the company went to work building a bypass around the contact chamber.  As reported earlier, the contact chamber slows the delivery time of treated water in order to assure the chlorine has time to disinfect the water. Operator Dan Arreguin said he had been running his calculations with the Division of Drinking Water staff and concluded that with the lower demand of winter time, GSD could increase the chlorine level to safely accommodate the shorter delivery time because of the linear pipe distance to town and the lower wintertime flow rate in the pipes.

 

[Photo by Kelley Lincoln]

To bypass the contact chamber, Wahlund Construction disconnected the piping to it and built a “u turn” in the massive plumbing to redirect the water back into the delivery system. The upright pipes shown in the picture are where the water previously was piped into the contact into the chamber and back out again.

When the plant was built, the contact chamber was installed to accommodate potential water needs for the Community Park. All other customers can be served without having a contact chamber.  However, in summer, higher water demand will shorten the delivery time. This means using twice the chlorine that has been needed according to Arreguin

When the incident occurred, the Division of Drinking Water insisted on a Boil Water Order being issued. Ralph Emerson says he objected because he felt the water supply remained safe, but the District complied. Emerson says if the water had been unsafe, GSD staff would have taken the time to go door to door and be sure people knew to boil the water.

GSD is developing a plan ensuring communication in the next emergency is smoother. The District uses a software called Jayhawk Utility Suite for their billing. Interim Administrative Assistant Mary Nieto contacted Jayhawk’s developer to ask about companion software for contacting customers in emergencies like this. Nieto learned Jayhawk has had many similar requests and will be releasing a module designed for this within a month or two. The District will begin to use that as soon as it becomes available.

However, General Manager Emerson stressed several times that phone numbers provided to GSD are often not current. Another problem is voice message systems are not operational. Emerson strongly encourages customers who want to be notified when there is a problem with their water to update their contact information.

Agricultural Cannabis Water Use

The Board is working to develop a separate water use policy for cannabis businesses. Ralph Emerson said that “the District does not have an ordinance for providing treated water to a commercial business.”

A business owner from the Bear Canyon industrial area explained to the Board that she needs her “will-serve letter” from the District so she can complete her requirements for the permitting with Humboldt County so she can apply for a CalCannabis license when they become available early next year. The deadline on her county planning form was up in September. Emerson says she represents “other applicants” who have been waiting for the District to make a policy.

While no decisions have been formally made yet, the draft of the Cannabis ordinance says GSD ratepayers who want to have licensed cannabis operations must pay $8,000 for a second water meter, plus its installation costs and its monthly base rate of about $100.00 a month. General Manager Ralph Emerson said that staff with the Water Board that he has spoken to have liked this protocol. The District’s reasoning is that with a second meter running to the yard, the district can cut off services to “the ag meter” in times of drought and mandatory conservation. Emerson also says with the connection fees and the extra base rate fees, the District can afford to produce the water.

Additionally, the draft says that cultivators will need to provide forbearance storage for summertime use.

Board Member Doug Bryan said he and Board Member Rio Anderson, who was absent, are the committee writing the ordinance. Bryan says he now has, in hand, new policy guidelines from the California’s State Water Resources Control Board. Bryan said the guidelines give him much more confidence writing this policy and that the committee will meet and bring back a revised draft of the Cannabis Ordinance to the Board next month.

The Board will not take action for any applicants until the policy is in place.

Greenwired Presentation

Matty Tittmann and Jamie Rennie from Greenwired presented a rough draft proposal “to begin a conversation” with the Board to explore replacing half the District’s very sizable energy demand with solar power.

The proposal from Greenwired says to produce half their total energy needs of about 194kw, GSD would need 300 panels that produce 325 watts each. And GSD would need an upgrade to the interconnection to the PG&E grid power.

The estimate Greenwired had prepared for the meeting says that a rough calculation indicates half the District’s power supply can be offset with a project cost of about $350,000, and that there is a 30% tax credit available through the end of 2018 that will bring the project cost to the district down to $245,000. The District pays about $57,000 a year in energy costs.

The board listened and asked about having the project offset their total power bill. According to Greenwired, the main hold up will be the inter-tie to the power grid. It is currently a 200amp connection. To supply half the power needs for the district requires upgrading to 800 amps and to 100% of the power needs requires a 1,600 amp interconnection. And that requires PG&E to schedule and perform the upgrade which seems to be a slow process.

The Board is excited to explore the possibilities, however, Boardmember Doug Bryan voiced reluctance to do anything requiring the District to get into another loan.

In a phone conversation to the California Energy Commission later, Amber Beck explained that the ECAA, Energy Conservation Assistance Act, has a fund for public projects. The fund is equally divided between education and other governmental organizations. Education based entities such as schools, offices of education and community colleges can get grants and interest-free loans. Cities, counties, and special districts must take a loan and pay 1% on those loans.

Amber also explained that a qualifying entity can finance a project that covers up to 100% of their energy needs but there is a cap of $3,000,000. The project must be paid for in offset energy costs within a 20 year period. GSD’s payback period appears to be 12 years.

General Manager’s Report

The General Manager’s Report says, in part,  there is a GSD stakeholders group and that they have said to him they don’t want higher rates, and that they want smooth communication from the District.

Lower Costs

And Chair Linda Broderson reported from the Rate Study Committee that the committee recommends GSD include 5 units of water, worth $3.50 in the base rate to reduce costs for customers.

 

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11 comments

  • The engineers also said the type of pipe used may not have been unsuitable for this application. So was the pipe suitable or Unsuitable??? The wording in this sentence is a double negative, as well as confusing!!!

  • STILL, with the Modification on my posts???!!! :-C

  • Well. They are sorry. Never mind. I guess they all don’t need to be fired, after all…

    NOT!

    If this all works for you, drink the water. Hope it doesn’t make you sick, or you might end up at Jerold Phelps Hospital Emergency Room, where FNP’s could easily kill you from malpractice the equal of that dispensed at the GSD…

    The new motto of this town:

    Garberville: Home of incompetence and corruption!

  • “When the plant was built, the contact chamber was installed to accommodate potential water needs for the Community Park. All other customers can be served without having a contact chamber. However, in summer, higher water demand will shorten the delivery time. This means using twice the chlorine that has been needed according to Arreguin”

    So let me get this straight; GSD built a $5 million dollar public water treatment plant right next to the “Community Park” with only the “Community Park” in mind? I wonder how much that cost the GSD ratepayers?

    It is amazing how much public tax funding GSD has spent on the “Community Park” (approx $65K), only not to include the”Community Park” in any of their “potential water needs”?

    The Community Park has stated publicly and in writing by their consultant (Amy Skewes-Cox, AICP), they do not want to be connected to GSD for potable water. So why did GSD spend ratepayer funds on something the Community Park Board doesn’t want?

  • So if the “Community Park” doesn’t want GSD water, and the chlorination contact chamber pipe is only for the “Community Park”, then why would you fix the pipe?

    Will there be an investigation about the cause and failure of the pipe? And who is responsible if the pipe was not “suitable” for the application? Seems like someone should be accountable to the GSD ratepayers?

  • “The Operators express admiration for Wahlund Construction who moved very quickly to support the district. Wahlund’s equipment was in Crescent City at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 24 when the District reached them. Nonetheless, even with a six-hour round trip to Cresent City, the company was on-site in Garberville, with their equipment, by 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning.”

    If they were doing all of that at no charge I could see the “admiration”. However, its awesome free advertizing and marketing for Wahlund. I guess all the usual local contractors were to busy?

    I wonder how much that 6 hour road trip by Wahlund will cost the ratepayers of GSD, on top of all the excavation and by=pass work? All so the “Community Park” could maybe have GSD water some day? Wow…

  • Who is the responsible party for this mishap. Seems that it should be the top guy, the General Manager. No excuses. The buck stops there. This is gross negligence. Very lucky nobody was harmed. The precautionary principle should have been followed here. The state mandated, boil water order should have been communicated to the ratepayers/people potentially at risk, right away.
    In another matter, why would the gardeners need a separate meter for their gardens. Wouldn’t a lockable turn off valve do the job, if needed, in a water shortage situation. Could the reason for the meter be only to make the ratepayer (who already has a meter on his property) pay an $8000 hookup fee, for a right to water that he already possesses? If the GM was paying attention to the system (burned up pumps, exploding pipes etc.) rather than how he could squeeze more money out of the ratepayers, there would be fewer incidents.

  • So, if the pipe in the photo (30 DR41) was rated @ 100 PSI and the normal line pressure was 30-35 PSI, then how did that line exceed 100 PSI? By the twist of those fractures (outward), it only does that when it expands from extreme PSI, way past 100 PSI. My question would be; was the outlet valve closed at some point just before the “explosion”?? It makes no sense how you could put that much PSI on a line that is always running at 30-35 PSI.

    In my line of work, you don’t fix or repair something until you know the cause and failure, so the failure don’t happen again! And in the 30 plus years I have been investigating failures similar to this, I would talk again with the operators that were working at the plant that day. This was not a material failure, it was human/system error…

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