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Helix Water District’s Calavo storage tank was ideally positioned to play home to the new repeater. Photo: Helix WD emergency communication

New Helix Water District Connection Improves Emergency Communication

East San Diego County firefighters and first responders will be better prepared to respond to emergencies due to improved communication capacity through a new partnership with the Helix Water District. The Heartland Communication Facility Authority recently installed a new radio repeater on Helix Water’s Calavo tank, located near Mt. Helix.

“When public agencies work together to improve the lives of our citizens, everyone benefits,” said Helix Board President Mark Gracyk. “We are delighted with the outcome and are very proud to participate in making East County a safer place to live.”

Heartland’s goal is to provide its customers with the highest quality of public safety communications services. Heartland provides public safety communication services to 13 fire agencies throughout East San Diego County. It uses a universal radio system – known as a VHF radio – to communicate with fire agencies and first responders.

New radio repeater improves public safety

Though reliable, the hilly terrain of East County can interfere with VHF radio communications. Diagram: Helix WD emergency communication

Though reliable, the hilly terrain of East County can interfere with VHF radio communications. Diagram: Helix Water District

Though reliable, the hilly terrain of East County can interfere with VHF radio communications. As part of its effort to improve communication in El Cajon and Spring Valley, it needed a suitable location to install a radio repeater between the two communities. The Calavo storage tank was ideally positioned to play home to the new repeater. Heartland approached Helix to work out an agreement.

“Heartland Communications Facility Authority knows the needs of our local emergency communication infrastructure,” said Dan McMillian, Helix Water District board member. “When Heartland approached Helix, our board saw this as an opportunity for our two agencies to work together for the benefit of the communities that we serve.”

“The addition of a radio repeater on the Calavo Drive water tank will allow firefighters from throughout the state who respond to the East County to communicate with each other and the dispatch center using this repeater,” said Carlos Castillo, Director of Heartland Communications. “Communications are an integral part of the firefighting effort in suppressing wildland fires, and firefighter safety relies on an effective communication infrastructure.”

Project completed prior to anticipated 2020 wildfire season

Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a four-foot antenna at the top of the tank. Photo: Helix WD

Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a four-foot antenna at the top of the tank. Photo: Helix Water District

Construction started in March 2020 and was completed in June 2020. Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a four-foot antenna at the top of the tank. As part of the project, San Diego Gas and Electric installed a new electric service and meter at the site so Heartland’s equipment can operate independently from Helix’s pumps and monitoring equipment.

“Heartland Communications would like to thank Helix Water District for allowing us to install our VHF repeater on their water tank,” said Castillo. “This collaboration between Helix and Heartland is a win-win for the fire service and the community. It will provide the critical communications infrastructure needed to enhance public safety.”

The Heartland Communication Facility Authority provides emergency communication services for its member agencies, which include Alpine Fire, Bonita Fire, San Miguel Fire, City of El Cajon, City of La Mesa, City of Lemon Grove, Lakeside Fire, City of Santee, Barona Fire and Viejas Fire.

The Helix Water District treats and delivers water to 277,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove, and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside, and unincorporated San Diego County.

Water Agencies Warn of Threatening Calls by Scam Artists

Water agency customers in several San Diego County communities have received scam phone calls this week demanding immediate payment of water bills by credit card or their water will be turned off.

Don’t be fooled! Hang up.

Public water agencies in San Diego County do not make phone threats for immediate credit card payment. In fact, water agencies statewide are prohibited from disconnecting service to water customers during the coronavirus pandemic per an executive order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom on April 2. The order remains in effect indefinitely.

“Scammers will often ask you to pay in a way that makes it hard for you to get your money back – by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card or cash reload card, or using a money transfer app,” according to the Federal Trade Commission. “Anyone who asks you to pay that way is a scammer.”

Utility scams pop up periodically across the region and take many forms. If in doubt about a contact made by someone claiming to work for a public water agency, call the number on your water bill and ask to talk to a customer service agent.

More information on phone scams:

Vista Irrigation District Names 2020 Student Poster Contest Winners

Vista Irrigation District has presented awards to three artistic fourth-grade students as winners of the District’s 2020 Water Awareness Poster Contest. The District’s board of directors selected the recipients at its July 15 meeting. This is the 28th year of the local contest. This year’s theme was “Love Water, Save Water.”

Karmen Isabel Simons, a fourth-grade student from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, received first-place honors for her entry in the competition. She received a $100 award

Polls Show Public Support for Two O.C. Desalination Proposals

Public support for proposed desalination plants in Huntington Beach and Dana Point appears strong in two recent polls, although opponents call the surveys biased and say neither poll addresses key obstacles facing these very different projects.

One poll showed 76% support among Huntington Beach residents for the proposal there. Another said support ranged from 64% to 80% for the project located near Doheny State Beach, depending on how the question was framed.

California Plans to Cut Detection Level for Perchlorate in Water

California water regulators announced Monday they planned to cut the level at which water suppliers must sample for and report detections of the chemical perchlorate, which has been linked to thyroid conditions.

Water suppliers in California currently must test for perchlorate in drinking water down to 4 parts per billion. The State Water Resources Control Board said it plans to cut that level to 2 parts per billion and then again to 1 part per billion in 2024.

California Adopts Definition of Microplastics in Drinking Water

In accordance with deadlines set in 2018 legislation, the California State Water Resources Control Board has adopted a definition for “microplastics” that will be used in testing of drinking water for microplastics. The Board was required, on or before July 1, 2020, to adopt a definition of microplastics in drinking water and, on or before July 1, 2021, will be required to adopt requirements for testing and reporting on microplastics in drinking water, among other things. While this development is currently focused on the testing of drinking water in California, the Board and others expect that it will form the basis of future efforts to quantify and address microplastics in the environment.

New Survey Polls U.S. Confidence In Tap Water

Four in five Americans served by a water utility (77 percent) say the quality of their tap water is excellent or good, although Black and Hispanic respondents report a lower level of satisfaction, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Water Works Association.

Resilience Must Be Viewed Through a Big-Picture Lens

Water is assumed to be among the most ‘resilient’ of sectors. Whatever the economic picture, we all need water. Sophisticated engineering design means technical threats can be engineered out. And the experience of Covid-19 so far appears to back up the assumption. The share prices of the big water firms have held up well; issues like increased demand have had only a minimal effect.

Opinion: Nevada Should Challenge Utah’s Move for a Lake Powell Pipeline

In politics, what goes around can and sometimes should come around. A case in point is the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Powell Pipeline.

Utah’s infamous Rep. Rob Bishop, known for his abysmally bad voting record on public lands and environmental issues, recently pulled off a “sneak attack” on Nevada in the House Armed Services Committee. On July 1st, reportedly without consulting with any Nevada officials, he put forward an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act legislation to give the Air Force primary control over approximately 850,000 acres of the DNWR.

Farmers Doing More With Less Need Help From Above

Joel Ackerknecht manages about 3,500 acres of land north and west of Bakersfield and south of Arvin for DM Camp and Sons, a more than 80-year-old Kern County farming operation that grows a variety of specialty crops, including wine grapes, nuts and sweet potatoes.