Garberville Faces Possible Water Shortage, Wants to Develop a Connecting Water System With Redway, and Wrestles with Cannabis Policy
Garberville water users could face a water supply shortage this summer if the broken GSD water treatment contact chamber is not repaired. Meanwhile, that situation has highlighted the need for an intertie (a metered connection) between the water supply systems of the GSD and the Redway CSD for redundancy during emergencies, according to GSD General Manager Ralph Emerson and the GSD Board. And, with the possibility of a water supply shortage in the background, the GSD continues to develop its policy for agricultural water users using District services. All this while the Board has an empty Board of Directors seat to fill and no one applying for the vacancy.
The Contact Chamber
“I’ve got to get something in place by summer,” General Manager Ralph Emerson explained. Without an operating contact chamber in place, during the peak of summer, the District could be significantly short of supply for its summertime demand. Emerson is working on having a plan in place by the February Board of Directors meeting.
However, if things remain as they are into summer, Operator Dan Arreguin said during the Board meeting, that without a contact chamber, he can safely produce a maximum of 187,000 gallons a day. However, according to General Manager Ralph Emerson, Garberville uses 100,000 gallons more than that on the high daily average over the summer. Garberville has its auxiliary supply, but Tobyn Well’s production drops in the summer to about 20,000 gallons a day, so that leaves the town short by 80,000 gallons. However, Barry Sutter of California’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) says the District to increase the amount of chlorine residuals it uses.
The day after Thanksgiving this past year, the contact chamber mysteriously failed. GSD is waiting on insurance for funding it’s repairs, but neither the engineers for the insurance company or for the GSD have finished their findings. The insurance company will not determine it’s coverage to repair or replace the failed equipment until after the engineering investigation is complete, according to Emerson.
In the meantime, the District is researching a preferred design for the contact chamber’s replacement. The General Manager and Operators at GSD do not like having the contact chamber underground because it adds costs and challenges to any needed repairs. However, the engineers have concerns about it being above ground for reasons of safety and stability. Emerson says he is inquiring around the region and has “a lot of people looking at it” to develop an affordable and functional design.
While the damaged contact chamber has not endangered the public in the winter because the demand for water is low and the rate of pumping to the holding tanks can be slowed down to provide necessary contact time, the lack of a contact chamber will present a significant challenge when the demand grows higher in the summertime.
To understand the problem, one needs to know that when water is chlorinated, it is not instantly safe to drink. The chlorine needs time to act on the micro-life potentially present in the water. Water treatment operators spend a lot of time learning the calculations involved in safely chlorinating water. The factors they balance include the volume of water, the amount of chlorine, and the amount of time the chlorine has to act before the water is consumed. More contact time allows Operators to add less chlorine.
A contact chamber slows the water down on its way out of the treatment facility and up to the delivery tanks uphill from the customers. Thus a contact chamber allows a greater volume of water to be fully disinfected without raising the amount of chlorine needed. Using less chlorine is cheaper and leads to fewer potential “disinfection byproducts.”
Currently, GSD treatment operators are pumping the water more slowly up to the distribution tanks and adding a little more chlorine to make up for the still-shortened duration of exposure. As spring moves into summer in a few months, this will mean the plant is operating more hours per day to maintain the slower pumping rate per hour up to the tanks. But eventually, if the contact chamber cannot be repaired or replaced, the increased water demand of summertime might exceed the treatment facility’s ability to compensate according to Emerson.
Barry Sutter of DDW said, “We are working very closely with GSD Operators. They may need to increase the chlorine residual levels to meet health and safety standards. We want what everyone wants, clean drinking water.”
Emerson says the current chlorine residual is at 1.2 ppm (parts per million.) Sutter says the maximum allowed by law is 4.0ppm. Increased chlorine levels will permit shorter contact time and allow the District to produce more potable water per hour. However, Sutter also said there might be customer complaints at that level. 4.0ppm is the legal chlorination rate for public pools according to Sutter.
This ongoing saga has highlighted to Emerson the need for an intertie between Garberville’s treated water system and that of the Redway’s Community Services District. Emerson said because the two districts are so isolated from everywhere else but so close to each other that “both districts would be irresponsible if there’s not an intertie developed.” Board Members agreed that for fire flow and other short-term high-demand uses, having a supply redundancy would benefit both communities.
When asked about the RCSD capacity analysis, and how RCSD might feel their District doesn’t have water supply to spare in the high demand months, Emerson said he has looked at the RCSD capacity analysis and doesn’t see a shortage in their water supply at this time.
Board Member and local firefighter, Doug Bryan, feels strongly the intertie should have already been done. He said,
… I think the reason Ralph has to sit here and say it’s irresponsible for us to not to plan it, is because it hasn’t already been done. Had some of our founding members of this community thought more in terms of working together instead of the Hatfield and the McCoys, which is commonly the case around here, then that pipe would have already been put into place and this relationship would already be established and we wouldn’t [be in] the corner that we’ve boxed ourselves into as a community.
When asked about the State’s opinion of an intertie, Barry Sutter of the DDW said, “We strongly encourage consolidation.” The DDW website addresses the topic and encourages districts to consolidate completely whenever possible. Sutter says DDW “doesn’t have legal authority to force consolidation except in very limited circumstances.” The website describes the circumstances as
[t]he State Water Board strongly supports voluntary sharing of local resources, consolidation and regionalization…. However, when public water systems are failing to meet water quality standards and/or have inadequate water supply, the State Water Board may order mandatory consolidations in some circumstances, in accordance with Sections 116680-116686 of the California Health and Safety Code.
Commercial Cannabis Policy Development
The Board is developing policy for agricultural water users. Bryan says this is for all agricultural water users whether they grow tomatoes, grapes, cannabis, or anything else.
The current draft of the ordinance and notes from the last committee meeting are here. Highlights include an annual application with a $150 fee each time its filed, an inspection by GSD staff of the site and infrastructure, and the potential for up to six months of required forbearance. The annual application will ask for projections for the year’s water use, and the District is proposing an audit to compare actual use with those projections.
Board Member Bryan explained three things. First, nothing is finalized about the forbearance period. Second, the forbearance period protects the cultivator who must yield to residential water users in a water shortage. And third, the committee recommends giving cannabis cultivators three years’ grace time to have storage infrastructure for a six-monthh water supply in place. Yet, if the contact chamber isn’t repaired in a timely way, those cultivators might need the storage immediately.
Also worth noting, the Board’s current thinking is that all forms of commercial cannabis businesses must comply with the annual application, water use projections, and water supply storage.
The District had a major disappointment in their fire hydrant replacement project. Measure Z provided $60,000 to replace eight hydrants around the community that don’t function properly, and the Board is very grateful for that, but the bids came in much higher than the District had anticipated. The highest bid came in around $200,000. Wahlund Construction submitted the lowest bid, but even that was too high to do all eight hydrants.
GSD had asked the companies to develop their bids “per hydrant” so they could remove hydrants from the project if necessary without sending the project out to bid again. As a result, the district has chosen four hydrants that are the highest priority, and Wahlund Construction will replace those for the $60,000 of Measure Z funds plus $10,000 of GSD General Fund money.
The four hydrants that will be replaced are the one at top, or south end, of Garberville which cannot currently be opened because its vacuum nut has failed so badly. The one in front of Calico’s restaurant because it is next to broken water meter boxes that can be repaired coincidentally. One on Riverview street on Sprowl Creek Road, and a new one will be put in at the Alderpoint Tank for use by fire departments in the wildland interface.
Board Member Richard Thompson asked twice if the project can go forward without a rebid, and Emerson said he consulted with legal council and states the district can move forward.
Chairperson Linda Broderson chairs a committee on the Rate Study. She is determined to even the monthly bills to penniless numbers. Charges of $60.22 will become $60 even. The General Manager is committed to not re-evaluating the sewer charge each winter. Once a customer’s sewer charge is determined, it will be set for the period of that customer’s residency to save work in the office each winter. Each customer’s sewer service is based on their water use in a winter month when presumably, no one is watering outdoors. Customarily that has been reevaluated each winter to account for growing and shrinking family sizes.
Gary Wellborn’s Board of Director’s seat remains unfilled. Currently, there are four board members, two of whom live outside the district. One of the two out-of-District residents, Rio Anderson, does have a business inside the district. These two Board members were appointed by the Board of Supervisors after the seats sat empty without interested applicants. A person who lives and receives GSD water service is eligible to apply for its Board of Directors. Anyone interested should stop by the office.