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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.

The Water Authority's Water News Network won a Bronze Bernays Award from the Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial Chapter.

Water Agency Outreach Efforts Honored

The San Diego County Water Authority and three of its member agencies were recognized Dec. 17 by the Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter for outstanding work in public outreach and education efforts.

The 2020 PRSA Bernays Awards were presented for communication on a variety of platforms, all designed to inform stakeholders and ratepayers about initiatives ensuring a safe and reliable water supply. Awards were presented virtually via live Twitter feed.

The Silver Bernays Award of Merit went to the Water Authority for "Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues." Photo: PRSA SD/IC

The Silver Bernays Award of Merit for “Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues.” Photo: PRSA SD/IC

The Water Authority received the Silver Bernays Award of Merit for Multicultural Public Relations for “Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues,” and a Bronze Award of Merit in the Research/Evaluation category for “Researching Themes for Hispanic Outreach for Water Quality.” The agency’s Water News Network received a Bronze Award of Merit in the Websites category.

Earlier this year, the Water News Network was named “Best Website” among California public agencies in the California Association of Public Information Officials EPIC Awards competition. The website was also awarded first place as “Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website” in the 2020 San Diego Press Club Journalism Awards.

“During the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was more important than ever for the Water Authority to intensify its efforts to communicate with our audiences and assure them that the virus was not transmitted through the public water system and the essential work to provide a safe, reliable water supply continued without interruption,” said Denise Vedder, director of the Water Authority’s Public Affairs Department.  “In partnership with our member agencies, the Water News Network and our Hispanic outreach initiative played a key role in achieving this goal, and it is rewarding to be recognized by PRSA San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter for those results.”

Water agency outreach wins recognition

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and the cities of San Diego and Oceanside also received awards for outreach and education programs.

City of Oceanside employees Carlos Raymundo (closest) and Shawn Alonzo view the award-winning Pure Water Oceanside wall art project. Photo: City of Oceanside

Oceanside employees Carlos Raymundo (front right) and Shawn Alonzo view the Pure Water Oceanside wall art project. Photo: City of Oceanside

The City of Oceanside and NV5 Inc. recognized in three categories for Pure Water Oceanside:

Silver Award of Excellence, Campaigns: Events and Observances – Less Than Seven Days – “Pure Water Oceanside is on the Map!”

Bronze Award of Merit, Creative Tactics – “Wall Art Tells Story of Water’s Past, Present, & Future”

Bronze Award of Merit, Video – “Pure Water Oceanside Video”

“The City of Oceanside is proud to put Pure Water Oceanside on the map,” said Cari Dale, water utilities director, City of Oceanside. “Once complete, Pure Water Oceanside will provide more than 30% of Oceanside’s water supply. Our staff and consultants are dedicated to providing Oceanside with innovative solutions to water reliability and continued water reuse education.”

The City of San Diego, along with Katz & Associates, received a Silver Bernays Award of Merit in Campaigns, Events, and Observances – Less Than Seven Days for its “2020 Pure Water San Diego Virtual Contractor Expo.”

City of San Diego Director of Public Utilities Shauna Lorance welcomes viewers to the new virtual tour. Photo: City of San Diego water agency outreach

City of San Diego Director of Public Utilities Shauna Lorance welcomes viewers to the new virtual tour. Photo: City of San Diego

“Outreach remains a key element of our Pure Water program,” said Shauna Lorance, director of public utilities for the City of San Diego. “When the pandemic made in-person engagement impossible, our community outreach and project management teams rose to the challenge and implemented a successful 2020 Pure Water Virtual Contractor Expo. Providing the personal outreach to potential contractors allows the contractors to develop the best bids possible and helps ensure a successful Pure Water project.”

The Padre Dam Municipal Water District won a Bronze Award of Excellence for its 2019 Annual Report.

The cover of the award-winning Padre Dam Municipal Water District 2019 annual report. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The award-winning Padre Dam Municipal Water District 2019 annual report. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“Padre Dam is proud of our communications team for the great thought, creativity, and appreciation of the District’s work that is put into projects like the annual report,” said Melissa McChesney, communications manager for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “They do all of this in order to share with our customers the important work and services we provide to our community.”

The SCOOP SD program and Tracks PR received a Silver Bernays Award of Excellence in Campaigns: Events and Observances – Less than Seven Days, Business, and a Bronze Bernays Awards of Merit in Creative Tactics, both for Sweet Relief for Small Biz During COVID.