State cites services district for June drinking water contamination

Although it doesn’t entail a fine, the American Valley Community Services District is cited for drinking water contamination that occurred in early June.

That announcement came during the regular Aug. 8 monthly directors’ meeting.

Business Manager Katie Nunn explained that the district wasn’t negligent in its role in the contamination incident, but the state will want reimbursement for expenses incurred while assisting the district during the contamination incident.

Background

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The presence of E. Coli bacteria in routine water samples caused the State Water Resources Control Board to direct the district to take emergency steps notifying all drinking water customers not to use the water without first boiling it. At least two reverse 911 calls were made to ratepayers when the contamination was suspected. Businesses and agencies were called to alert people not to drink tap water without first boiling it.

By June 6, bacteriological samples collected June 5 showed the presence of total coliform bacteria, according to the letter from representatives of WRC.

“The district immediately began to provide emergency continuous disinfection of the distribution system by dosing sodium hypochlorite at each well,” according to the state.

When contamination was detected during routine testing, General Manager Jim Doohan immediately contacted WRC and began employing the required steps. He and other staff also talked with state representatives in determining the most effective way to eliminate the E. coli and once again provide Quincy area residents with safe drinking water.

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As AVCSD employees attempted to trace the source of the contamination, it was soon discovered that a portion of the Claremont Springs transmission main had been vandalized.

Specifically, this was a broken pressure tower pipe. “It was shot or blown up or something,” said Acting General Manager Mike Green at the recent meeting. (Doohan is on medical leave.)

Designed to withstand the weight of large trucks running over the exposed piping, a person or persons, managed to completely destroy a section of the line.

At the time of the incident and its discovery Doohan said that the largest piece of pipeline he found was the size of the back of his hand.

The destruction happened to coincide with a heavy rainstorm when contaminates washed into the system.

While the cause of the contamination wasn’t the fault of the district, the state still holds it accountable for covering its expenses.

It was noted in the letter that the district also fulfilled its required compliance work as directed by WRC.

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Citation

“The California SDWA (State Water Resources Association) authorizes the state board to: issue citation with assessment of administrative penalties to a public water system for violation or continued violation of the requirements …,” according to the citation enforcement action letter to AVCSD.

Nunn said the state usually doesn’t charge the district a fine, it charges for the cost of their time and travel expenses. Those costs were not included in the cover letter or the citation. Nunn said the state would bill the district at some point.

Cost of repair

While on the topic, Green said the costs of labor and materials for repair to the destroyed pipeline came in at around $10,000.

The labor was the most expensive part of the repair job. Green said they spent about $7,200. He’d also itemized another $1,200 on items for construction materials with a few more bills trickling in.

“We have no idea of how much water we wasted,” Green said following the meeting. Thousands of gallons of water were flushed through the system following the chlorination process required to eliminate the contamination.

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Green also said that about 150 hours of labor were wasted during the process.