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Helix Water District Reduces Plant Upgrade Costs

When the Helix Water District received contractor estimates as high as $3.5 million to upgrade the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant’s ozone power supply units and generators, it decided to perform the upgrade in-house.

With Suez Water Technologies provided engineering and equipment, Helix employees incorporated new technology and innovative installation practices. The proof of concept pilot project proved the feasibility of the new approach, and a full retrofit is now planned. The estimated upgrade costs to complete the full project is $1.1 million – an approximately 70% cost savings. The upgrade will extend the life of the power supply units and generators at least 15 years.

A Helix staff member installs parts in the ozone generator. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix Water District Reduces Plant Upgrade Costs

When the Helix Water District received contractor estimates as high as $3.5 million to upgrade the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant’s ozone power supply units and generators, it decided to perform the upgrade in-house.

With Suez Water Technologies provided engineering and equipment, Helix employees incorporated new technology and innovative installation practices. The proof of concept pilot project proved the feasibility of the new approach, and a full retrofit is now planned. The estimated upgrade costs to complete the full project is $1.1 million – an approximately 70% cost savings. The upgrade will extend the life of the power supply units and generators at least 15 years.

Reducing upgrade costs saves ratepayers

“The ozone project is our latest example of cost-effective local government,” said Brian Olney, Helix Water District director of water quality and system operations. “In early 2020, Helix staff also standardized the design, hardware, and software of the motor control centers in the district’s 25 pump stations, and that project also saved our customers money, and created long-term operating, maintenance and purchasing efficiencies.”

Ozone treatment provides safe and reliable water to East County

The ozone generator at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant in Lakeside. Photo: Helix Water District

The ozone generator at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant in Lakeside. Photo: Helix Water District

The water treatment process at the R.M. Levy Water Treatment plant begins with the removal of dirt and other material suspended in the water. Ozone is then used to inactivate or destroy any organisms in the water. Ozone offers important advantages over chlorine:

  • Ozone destroys or inactivates a wide range of organisms in the water
  • Ozone needs little contact time with the water to be effective
  • Ozone produces fewer potentially harmful disinfection byproducts than other disinfectants
  • Ozone removes most of the smell and taste issues people associate with tap water
Helix’s ozone project team (pre-pandemic) in front of the rebuilt power supply unit.

Helix Water District’s ozone project team (pre-pandemic) in front of the rebuilt power supply unit. Photo: Helix Water District

Ozone is naturally unstable at normal atmospheric conditions, which is why Helix needs ozone generators to produce it on site. The high voltage generators break down oxygen molecules (O2) and form ozone (O3). The ozone molecules are then diffused in a contact chamber and bubble up through the water to destroy any organisms present.

After ozonation, Helix Water District filters the water and adds a dose of chloramines — chlorine and ammonia — to maintain water quality throughout its 737 miles of water distribution pipelines. The treatment process is managed by a team of highly trained plant operators who conduct 200 water quality tests per day. Chemists and biologists test water samples from both the plant and the distribution system as well.

Helix Water District: Join Us For Water Chats On Facebook Live On January 28

Water tanks are a common sight across the hillsides and neighborhoods in our region. Helix manages, maintains and operates 25 tanks across the 50 square miles of our district to provide our 277,000 customers with water to their faucets on demand. Water tanks vary in size, shape, location and function, and they are the focus of our next virtual event.

Helix Water District Approves Water for Sand-Mining Project

The Helix Water District board of directors has agreed to supply water over the next 20 years for a controversial sand-mining project in the El Monte Valley in Lakeside. The board will now send a letter to county planners confirming they can meet the needs of the project should it win approval.

San Diego County Student Artists Shine in 2021 Calendar

Six talented San Diego County artists from the region’s schools are among the 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. This year, the six regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives participated in a virtual award ceremony to honor their achievements.

Lucia Perez Valles is one of six San Diego regional winners whose artwork appears in the 2012 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: Otay Water District 2021 Calendar

San Diego County Student Artists Shine in 2021 Calendar

Six talented San Diego County artists from the region’s schools are among the 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Six San Diego region students were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: MWD

Six students from the San Diego region were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” calendar. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. Students in grades K-12 submitted artwork through participating member agencies, after winning their local competition.

This year, the six regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives participated in a virtual award ceremony to honor their achievements on Dec. 17.

Winning students from the San Diego region

Jose Sabedra's winning entry appears on the June 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Jose Sabedra’s winning entry appears on the June 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Art from Jose Sabedra, a fourth-grader from Bostonia Language Academy and Mina Saeed, also a fourth-grader at Lexington Elementary School, appear in the calendar. They won the Helix Water District competition. Sabedra’s teacher is Sara Meier, and Saeed’s teacher is Holly Hemming. June features Sabedra’s art and Saeed’s winning work covers September.

Mina Saeed's winning entries appear on the September 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Mina Saeed’s winning entry appears on the September 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“We are always impressed by the creativity and talent of the student artists from our district, and this year was no exception,” said Jennifer Bryant, Helix Water District director of administrative services. “Congratulations again to Jose Sabedra and Mina Saeed – we are proud to see your water conservation artwork represent Helix in MWD’s 2021 Water is Life calendar.”

Lucia Perez Valles' winning entry appears on the July 2021 page. Photo: MWD 2021 calendar

Lucia Perez Valles’ winning entry appears on the July 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Sisters Lucia Perez Valles and Sofia Perez Valles both have winning artwork from the Otay Water District in the 2021 calendar. Both attend Olympian High School. Lucia is a sophomore, and Sonia is a senior. Lucia’s art appears on the July page, and Sonia’s appears in November.

Sofia Perez Valles' and Sarah Bernier's winning entries appear on the November 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Sofia Perez Valles’ and Sarah Bernier’s winning entries appear on the November 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“It is important to provide this opportunity to students in our service area, especially during the pandemic because water education is always important,“ said Eileen Salmeron, Otay Water District communications assistant. “We’re proud of all the participants from Otay, including the Valles sisters, for demonstrating their awareness of how essential water is to our everyday quality of life.”

From the Padre Dam Municipal Water District competition, sixth graders Sarah Bernier at Joan MacQueen Middle School in Kim Asfazadour’s class, and Violet Jacobson at Hill Creek Elementary School in Mrs. Kelly’s class both have posters in the calendar. Bernier’s art appears on the November page, and Jacobson’s on the December page. This is the second year in a row Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears in the MWD regional calendar.

Violet Jacobson's artwork appears on the December 2021 page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: MWD

Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears on the December 2021 calendar page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“I am so proud of the talented students who are representing Padre Dam in the 2021 Water is Life Calendar,” said Emma Shea, Padre Dam Municipal Water District communications coordinator. “These young artists have done a fantastic job at portraying the importance of water conservation as a way of life.”

See the full calendar here

Artistic expression provides environmental education  

The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar curates student art submitted from grades K-12 that carry a conservation message. Hundreds of entries are judged and 36 are featured in the annual calendar, which is distributed to about 13,000 recipients each year.

Teresa Chase helps load up donations from Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees. They are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Water Utility Workers Embrace Holiday Giving

The San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies have a long tradition of supporting holiday charitable giving to a wide array of nonprofit services. The tradition continues in 2020 with no slowdown despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Toys bring joy to kids in need

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to Helix's Toys for Tots toy drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East County. Photo: Helix Water District Holiday giving

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to the agency’s Toys for Tots drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East San Diego County. Photo: Helix Water District

For more than 15 years, Sweetwater Authority employees have been active participants in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, providing toys to children in its service area. Every year, employees take a tag that contains information about the recipient (age, gender, toy request). The employee shops for the item and brings them back unwrapped to the office. The Salvation Army pickups and delivers the donated toys.

With many employees working from home this year due to the pandemic, several made arrangements to have their gifts shipped directly to the office, or stopped by to drop off a gift.

“Every year, I enjoy seeing the collection of toys selected by our employees for the children of South Bay. I am always so proud of the generosity and kindness of our team – It is one of the joys of the holiday season,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager.

Helix Water District staff is donating to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program, and encouraged its customers to participate. Each holiday season, the U.S. Marine Corps partners with local nonprofits and businesses to collect toys for distribution to children. Helix employees at all four of the district’s facilities collected new and unwrapped toys. “If there was ever a time to help families in need, this is it,” said Helix spokesperson Vince Dambrose.

San Diego County Water Authority employees enthusiastically support Toys for Tots through its Employee Association. President Angela Tomayko, administrative assistant to the Colorado River Program and MWD Program, said employees will donate $500 toward the purchase of toys for the program.

San Diego Food Bank virtual drives provide assistance 

The Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank holiday giving

The San Diego County Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank

Early in the pandemic, the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies launched a virtual food drive in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank to provide assistance to those affected by the pandemic.

The Otay Water District was an original partner in the virtual food drive and has continued its commitment along with its nearly 226,000 customers, employees, and any supporter able to donate. As a result of its holiday season efforts, the Otay Water District raised $5,400 in food and monetary donations for the Food Bank.

“Because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, demands for food and aid have skyrocketed across the county,” said Tenille Otero, Otay communications officer. “People are without jobs, without paychecks, and without money to feed and support their households. Through the food bank effort, the District, its employees, and customers can assist those affected by the pandemic.”

Helix Water District also partnered directly with the San Diego Food Bank early in the pandemic, raising more than $6,000 for the program. Both the food drive, and its Toys for Tots effort are run as part of the “Helix Helps” program created in 2017. Helix employees, families and friends volunteer their time to support the communities the district serves.

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. photo; city of Escondido Holiday giving

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Photo: City of Escondido

City of Escondido employees including the water and wastewater divisions put together “Souper Sacks,” bags of non-perishable food and fun surprises distributed through the city’s senior program at the Park Avenue Community Center. Last year, 341 Souper Sacks were donated.

In addition, employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Children receive a new set of pajamas to bring them comfort during their most challenging moments.

In previous years, items were delivered to the nonprofits with an escort by the Escondido Fire Department. “This year, distribution will be lower key, but participation in both of these longstanding programs has not waivered,” said Teresa Collins, Escondido communications manager.

Supporting clean water worldwide

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

For 15 years, Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees have enthusiastically supported fundraising for the nonprofit Water for People. It works with communities across the globe to install safe water and sanitation systems, educating local people on good health practices and saving thousands of lives. Olivenhain employees have volunteered abroad helping set up water and sewer systems with the full support of the agency.

During the holiday season, the San Diego chapter holds a competition to sell the most gift baskets donated by Wonderful Pistachios. Employees help assemble the baskets for sale. Olivenhain hoped for a “three-peat” win but settled for a close second place, selling 179 baskets.

Water Authority employees also purchased baskets. Employee Association President Angela Tomayko noted, “they sold out quickly!”

Olivenhain employees are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Employees also participate with paycheck deductions through the United Way.

“We like to cast a wide net to make the season brighter for as many as we can – seniors, children, vets, and even four-legged friends,” said Teresa Chase, administrative analyst.

“I enjoy shopping for the families and I like collecting for animals, too,” said district accountant Lisa Maxwell, who has worked at Olivenhain Municipal Water District for 23 years. “It’s just something that brings joy. We could use it, this year especially.”

Water Authority employees embrace philanthropy year-round

This year, the Water Authority established a new employee-driven Charitable Giving Committee to support nonprofits year-round. Chair John Kross, Engineering Department right of way manager, and committee member Liz Mendelson-Goossens, principal water resources specialist, MWD Program, said the committee has established new guidelines and surveyed employees to select recipients, the San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Humane Society, and Rady Children’s Hospital.

Without the ability to hold face-to-face events, the committee launches its first virtual fundraiser with a holiday theme. Through the end of the year, employees can compete in a holiday attire contest, donating to enter a photo in one of three categories: Ugliest, Most Creative, and Best Homemade. Fellow employees will vote on the winners.

Helix Water District Logo Square officers for 2021

Helix Water District Board Elects Officers for 2021

At a December 9, 2020 meeting, the Helix Water District Board of Directors elected Director Joel Scalzitti to serve as board president in 2021 and Director Kathleen Coates Hedberg to serve as the board’s vice president.

Scalzitti was elected to the board in 2012 and represents Helix’s division 5, which extends from El Cajon to Lake Jennings.

Hedberg has served on Helix’s board since 2006 and represents the district’s division 4 customers in La Mesa, Casa de Oro and El Cajon.

Two WaterSmart Winners: Budget-Smart Beauty and Colorful Cottage

For two 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winners, the contrasts couldn’t be greater. Melissa and Josh Perrell, Santee homeowners who won the Padre Dam Municipal Water District contest, took a minimalist, less-is-more approach to their front landscape. Tim and Brianna Montgomery, the La Mesa homeowners who won the Helix Water District contest, subscribed to a go big or, well, go home attitude that not only addressed water issues in the context of plants but also in hardscape to prevent flooding.

Lake Jennings Trout Season Opening A Success

Lake Jennings, the Helix Water District reservoir in Lakeside, is one of San Diego County’s hot spots for trout fishing, ranked second in the county by SDFish.com. The 2020 fall trout fishing season got underway on November 20, with enthusiastic anglers enjoying safe outdoor recreation with pandemic precautions in place.

“It’s one of those family activities people can do right now,” said Kira Haley, Helix Water District recreation manager.