To protect its employees, members of the public, and the environment from any accidental chemical releases or exposure, the Vallecitos Water District has established its own internal Hazardous Materials Response Team or HAZMAT team.
Archive for date: February 24th, 2020
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In a dramatic decision that could significantly impact Silicon Valley’s water supply, federal dam regulators have ordered Anderson Reservoir, the largest reservoir in Santa Clara County, to be completely drained starting Oct. 1.
The 240-foot earthen dam, built in 1950 and located east of Highway 101 between Morgan Hill and San Jose, poses too great of a risk of collapse during a major earthquake, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates dams, has concluded.
“It is unacceptable to maintain the reservoir at an elevation higher than necessary when it can be reduced, thereby decreasing the risk to public safety and the large population downstream of Anderson Dam,” wrote David Capka, director of FERC’s Division of Dam Safety and Inspections, in a letter to the Santa Clara Valley Water District on Thursday.
Scientists have documented how climate change is sapping the Colorado River, and new research shows the river is so sensitive to warming that it could lose about one-fourth of its flow by 2050 as temperatures continue to climb. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey found that the loss of snowpack due to higher temperatures plays a major role in driving the trend of the river’s dwindling flow. They estimated that warmer temperatures were behind about half of the 16% decline in the river’s flow during the stretch of drought years from 2000-2017, a drop that has forced Western states to adopt plans to boost the Colorado’s water-starved reservoirs.
The contraption, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg, would produce two of Southern California’s most precious and essential resources: water and electricity.
The electricity would be renewable. And the drought-proof, desalinated ocean water could prove more environmentally friendly — and cheaper — than the water produced from three other desalters proposed for Southern California.
The idea, developed by Silicon Valley-based Neal Aronson and his Oceanus Power & Water venture, caught the attention of the Santa Margarita Water District. The agency quickly saw the project’s viability to fill a void.
San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico — Under the red girders of a nondescript toll bridge, waves gently lapped coarse sands in a gritty corner of this northwestern Mexican border city.
“There is usually no water and vegetation, and the ground looks like this,” local conservationist Alejandra Calvo-Fonesca said, gesturing toward the dusty shoreline of the Colorado River.
For a few months this winter, residents welcomed an unexpected surge of water in the river – a phenomenon they had not experienced since the spring 2014 “pulse flow,” when the United States released 107,000 acre-feet of water into the Colorado River Delta over a two-month period. That seminal event brought revelers in droves, eager to celebrate the revival of a historic waterway that is not only the city’s namesake, but a source of pride for its people.
To protect its employees, members of the public, and the environment from any accidental chemical releases or exposure, the Vallecitos Water District has established its own internal Hazardous Materials Response Team or HAZMAT team. Maintaining its own internal team allows a 24-hour response capability.
Common hazardous chemicals play vital roles in the water and wastewater industry for disinfection and odor control. They are also used in fueling and maintaining agency vehicles, generators, pumps, and motors.
A HAZMAT team is an organized group of professionals who receive special training to handle hazardous materials or dangerous goods. A HAZMAT team responds to oil, chemical and other liquid spills, industrial and military explosions and accidents during transportation, and similar incidents.
The Vallecitos Water District HAZMAT team consists of 20 members from different departments. They complete U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training, which provides a set of guidelines regulating hazardous water waste operations and emergency services in the U.S.
When an emergency call requires HAZMAT team response, individual members move from their regular job assignments to the HAZMAT Response Trailer. The team then mobilizes to the site of the emergency.
HAZMAT team protects people and the environment
“It’s a great honor just knowing we’re here to protect people in the surrounding areas, to protect the environment, and to know we’re here to jump into action in case there’s an issue,” said Matthew Wiese, senior plant operator at the Meadowlark Treatment Facility. “We’ve trained and we’ve gone through scenarios. Being able to act with confidence, it’s a great thing to be a part of that team.”
Vallecitos Water District HAZMAT team members wear specialized personal protective equipment and clothing to make safe entries into potentially hazardous areas. If a leak or spill of chemicals occurs, the HAZMAT team uses specialized tools and equipment to identify, and stop the release and spread of any contamination as quickly as safely possible.
Team members conduct monthly drills on common scenarios.
“If there was a release of chlorine gas which we use to conduct our wastewater treatment activities, we have specialized equipment and materials to lock down those cylinders so we can stop the release,” said Trisha Woolslayer, risk management supervisor. “We practice on a regular basis so we react quickly if an accidental release were to occur.”
Watch video of a recent training exercise.
Following each exercise, all team members hold a debriefing to discuss their observations, and how procedures might be improved.
Woolslayer said swifter response times and cost savings offset the investment in training and equipment by the District.
“It allows us to respond quickly, to stop whatever spill it is and protect the environment,” she said. “There are also cost savings. We spend on training and equipment, but it is a small amount compared to having a response contractor on call.”
Rainstorms routinely flush toxic chemicals, bacteria and even human feces through San Diego’s streets, canyons and rivers — ultimately polluting bays and beaches.
Those same downpours also regularly burst city stormwater pipes and overwhelm clogged waterways, inundating homes and businesses.
Under San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer the city laid out what it would cost to fix the problem — a financial blueprint over two decades for preventing undue flooding and coming into compliance with state mandates under the Clean Water Act.