State to cite Del Oro for water outage
The California State Health Services Department will finish drafting a citation to Del Oro Water Co. on Friday, June 23, for running out of water this past weekend.
The water failure, which left several Donner residents without drinking water from June 16-18, began after the Truckee Fire Protection District procured a small amount of water from a nearby hydrant to suppress a wildfire along Interstate 80.
“There were only a few feet left in the storage tank at the time,” said Bert Ellsworth, supervising sanitary engineer for CSHSD, noting that the roughly 30,000 gallon water tank had only a little water left before TFPD arrived.
“We aren’t finished writing the citation,” said Ellsworth, “but it will involve improving and increasing the capacity of water, the ability to move more water through the district system, and it will also deal with installing telemetering and water level monitoring.”
Ellsworth also mentioned that the state knew about problems with Donner Lake Water Co. over the years, and was aware of the shortage problems during Fourth of July weekend particularly. The state was preparing a notice that would recommend residents of Donner Lake conserve water when they discovered that Del Oro was running out of water during the week, not just over busy weekends.
Bob Fortino, president of Del Oro, said that he is very concerned and wants to reassure the residents of Donner Lake that the company is taking action.
Fortino said he is increasing the number of service vehicles at Donner Lake Water Co. from two to four, and he is sending John O’Farrell, superintendent of all seven of Del Oro’s water companies to conduct an investigation that will determine why the storage tanks on Donner Lake’s north shore are running out of water.
In addition, Fortino said that his staff will be hand delivering water conservation notices to Donner residents, and that the Del Oro service station at 15670 Donner Pass Road will provide water to residents through a faucet.
There are three possibilities that could explain why Donner Lake Water Co. has been running out of water, Fortino said. Either there is a break in a water line, a clog in a filter, or individuals are draining the system.
“A water operator has walked all over the line and has not found any leaks that he has not yet repaired,” said Ellsworth. “But some of the storage tanks are very old and may be leaking up to a gallon per minute.”
Donner Lake resident Alexander Rogerson said there have been several leaks in the system and crews from Del Oro are a common sight around the neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of water lost through leaks all the time,” said Rogerson.
Fortino said that replacing the tanks is included in the budget of the proposed $3.7 million water treatment plant.
“There are leaks in the tank, but I have no idea how much the leaks are contributing to the problem,” added Bill Gustavfson, consulting engineer for Del Oro. “I will say the problem is a combination of issues.”
Ellsworth, who has been working for the state Health department for 39 years, said that it is common for water storage facilities to run low during the evening. However, they usually restore up to 20 feet of water by morning.
“The tanks on Donner’s north shore are recovering only one to two feet per night,” he said.
“It saddens me that the community is not doing more,” said Fortino. “The Homeowner’s Association is refusing to turn off water. Why aren’t they cutting back on landscaping? We’re finding very little cooperation and it’s only adding to the difficulty.”
John Bollinger, manager for Donner Lake Properties Home Owners Association said that he has only received one notice from Del Oro, and it has not included any information regarding water conservation.
“Del Oro has had poor communication with its customers,” said Bollinger.
The water conservation notice will be in effect for the remainder of the summer and includes several recommendations:
— Avoid outside watering (yards, trees, etc.).
— Avoid washing your cars, boats, trailers or other equipment.
— Limit the number and length of showers.
— Limit toilet flushing to a minimum.
— Immediately fix or report water leaks and or anyone you feel is wasting water by calling 1-800-655-2582.
Del Oro water will meet with the Public Utilities Commission and the CSHSD to discuss possible solutions on Thursday, June 22.
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