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Amador County Service Area #3

BACKGROUND

County Service Area #3 The Amador County Grand Jury Audit & Finance Committee investigated Public Works' management of County Service Area 3 (CSA #3), located at Lake Camanche Village. The Grand Jury interviewed various property owners in CSA #3, Public Works maintenance employees, water system operators, Building Department inspector, Roads Supervisor, and the Director of Public Works Department. Audits were made of expenditures, budget, training records, contracts, and consultant's reports for CSA #3. Members of the jury toured the maintenance building, treatment plant, wastewater facility and homes being served in CSA #3.

The investigation by the Grand Jury was initiated by a complaint of a Lake Camanche Village resident. The complaint alleges management of CSA #3 water and sewer district misused property owners' funds in the design, building, and function of the water treatment plant at well 12, and an intertie between wells 6 and 9. The total cost for these facilities was $1.3 million dollars. This project was funded through an initial assessment to property owners in Units 1, 3A, and 6 of $1,300 per lot. Water rates were significantly increased with the building of the treatment plant and intertie.

CSA #3 consists of units 1, 3A and 6 of Lake Camanche Development. Within CSA #3, there are 1,050 lots. Within the service area, a total of 473 water meters have been issued and 577 water meters are available. Unit 1 is supplied by wells 8, 9, and 10. Wells 8 and 10 are currently not in service. Unit 3A is serviced by well 9, and unit 6 is serviced by wells 6 and 12A. Previously, unit 6 was serviced by well 12. Water is stored in covered redwood tanks at each well location. Unit 6 is the only area with wastewater service. There are four lift stations to the wastewater treatment plant and pond.

The water and sewer system is maintained by one full-time maintenance employee. Two (2) maintenance personnel from other County service areas are utilized on an as-needed basis. These employees report daily to the County Road Department Supervisor.

When the water treatment plant was in operation, the fulltime maintenance employee was required to spend at least four (4) hours a day in the treatment plant. At that time, outside contracts with the Water Agency for meter readings and Amador Mechanical (a private contractor) for repairs to lines were necessary.

When production in well 12 diminished, the well was redrilled to a deeper depth. This new depth went through iron and manganese bearing strata, which contaminated the water. Because of water contamination in well 12, the Public Works Director then made the decision to build a treatment plant at the site in order to remove the iron and manganese from the water.

A report by Gilmore Engineering Company stated that wells 6, 9, and 12 could meet demands for over 20 years. Public Works is presently proposing alternate surface water sources costing between $2 million and $5.5 million.

Because of the diminished supply of water in well 12, a need for additional water supplies became apparent. To supplement the supply of water to unit 6, a 1.5 mile intertie was designed as a gravity flow system between wells 9 and 6. When the intertie was designed, elevation levels were not taken into consideration. As a result, pumps had to be installed to maintain suitable pressure to users because the gravity flow system was inadequate to meet demand.

Within the treatment plant, chlorine tanks are located across the room from the mixing area. Chlorine is piped overhead in plastic tubing. This has now been encased in PVC Schedule 80 pipe, but is still run overhead. When the treatment plant became operational, the quality of the water became worse. Outside consultants were hired to solve the red water problem, caused by high iron concentrates. Pumps had to be used to maintain a suitable pressure to users. New equipment was installed to stabilize the amount of chemicals to water flow.

Shortly after modifications to the treatment plant were made, well 12 collapsed. A new well was drilled 60 feet from well 12. . The new well (well 12A) was dug to a depth of 335 feet. A 10-inch casing and 40 horsepower pump were installed. Well 12A produced 350 gallons per minute of clear iron free water. The cost for drilling the new well was approximately $80,000. Included in this cost were all drilling, site preparation, equipment, and system tie in.

FINDINGS

Treatment Plant and Intertie

  1. No formal studies were made by a geologist or hydrologist on the advisability of drilling a new well before decisions were made to expend $1.3 million dollars for the treatment plant and intertie project.
  2. Current well production meets the present needs of existing homes. Future development will depend on stability of current wells and the addition of more water sources.
  3. Faulty elevation and flow documentation was given to the engineering company that did the intertie design.
  4. Adequate training was not provided for the computerized measurement program. Interviews conducted by the Grand Jury indicate that non- compatible parts were used in the system, which created faulty readings.
  5. Information regarding water needs given to property owners at association meetings and the Board of Supervisors was never consistent.

Safety

  1. No safety meetings were held with maintenance personnel within the last three years. After making inquiries of the Public Works Director, two safety meetings were held in the beginning of April 1999.
  2. Full protective clothing has not been provided to employees handling dangerous chemicals.
  3. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) were not posted or available to employees working in a chemical environment. (This is an OSHA requirement.)
  4. In the treatment plant, the placement of liquid chlorine tanks across the room from the injection point is potentially dangerous. In the event overhead chemical lines fail, the operator would be in a hazardous situation.
  5. Chlorine gas is stored in the wastewater treatment plant building.
  6. Redwood storage tanks have outside ladders; however no side rails or interior attached ladders exist for use during cleaning.
  7. The entire combined protective clothing budget for Water and Sewer facilities in CSA#3 is $150.00 annually.

Operation

  1. The head of the roads division immediately supervises maintenance personnel for the water and sewer districts. This supervisor has no training or certification for water and wastewater treatment. This supervisor is responsible for scheduling work in CSA #3. It is not uncommon for changes in schedule to initiate in the Public Works office without notifying the immediate supervisor.
  2. CSA #3 is billed $22.92 average per hour for personnel from other areas plus an average of $972 a month for truck usage when other county employees work in the area.
  3. Contracts with The Water Agency and Amador Mechanical for meter reading and repairs are still in force.
  4. County operating personnel working in CSA #3 are trained professionals performing well in adverse conditions.
  5. Facility replacement fund for systems upkeep on 7/1/97 was $237,648 and was budgeted for an additional $34,642 in the 1998-1999 budget.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. A moratorium should be imposed on the issuance of new water meters until such time as increased reliable water resources are available.
  2. A formal survey of the wells and aquifers by a hydrologist is made to determine water availability.
  3. If proven effective, the drilling of additional wells should be utilized instead of proceeding with plans for a surface water system.
  4. The Director of Public Works issue one clear statement on water availability and estimated usage to both the Lake Camanche Village Home Owners Association and the Board of Supervisors.
  5. Conduct bi-monthly safety meetings to update all employees on safety procedures and proper equipment and chemical use.
  6. Increase the current budget to provide adequate safety clothing for water and wastewater personnel.
  7. Provide Material Safety Data Sheets for all working areas.
  8. Provide proper storage, in a separate building, for chlorine gas used at wastewater treatment plant.
  9. Install outside rails and permanent ladders inside water storage tanks.
  10. To improve communications between field personnel and the Director of Public Works, system operators should be responsible to the Director of Public Works
  11. Hire one additional full time employee for CSA #3 and provide an additional vehicle to alleviate the the need for outside contractors and County personnel from other districts.
  12. Homeowners in CSA #3 should assume responsibility to conserve water.

SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION

  1. Weatherby Reynolds Consulting Engineers Report - August 1994
  2. Gilmore Engineering, Value Engineering Report - November 1994
  3. SPPH Associates Consulting Engineers, Predesign Report - December 1994
  4. Terrance E. Lowell and Associates Engineers Report - September 6, 1995
  5. Harold Welborn and Associates Report - December 12, 1997
  6. Amador County Summary Report - July 18, 1995

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