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Vallecitos Water District Training Preps Firefighters for Wastewater Plant Emergencies

North San Diego County fire agencies teamed up in November with the Vallecitos Water District for confined space training drills. The drills, held over a two-week period, prepare firefighting professionals to respond to emergencies in facilities such as wastewater treatment plants and maintain their confined space certification.

North San Diego County fire agencies teamed up in November with the Vallecitos Water District for confined space training drills. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Training Preps Firefighters for Wastewater Plant Emergencies

North San Diego County fire agencies teamed up in November with the Vallecitos Water District for confined space training drills. The drills, held over a two-week period, prepare firefighting professionals to respond to emergencies in facilities such as wastewater treatment plants and maintain their confined space certification.

The recent training took place at the Vallecitos Water District’s Meadowlark Reclamation Facility. Firefighters saw how the wastewater plant operates while getting a walk through of the facility. Fire personnel worked with Vallecitos staff and both groups benefited from the opportunity to understand each other’s equipment and protocols.

Meadowlark Wastewater Plant Supervisor Dawn McDougle led the confined space training with North County firefighting agencies on behalf of the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Meadowlark Wastewater Plant Supervisor Dawn McDougle led the confined space training with North County firefighting agencies on behalf of the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“The confined space training with the fire agencies has helped prepare us for future scenarios that could happen at the plant,” said Dawn McDougle, wastewater plant supervisor.

Video of the training drills conducted by the fire agencies and Vallecitos Water District.

The Meadowlark facility was chosen because it provided both vertical and horizontal confined spaces for training drills. McDougle suggested the facility storm wet well be used for the confined space exercise since it is relatively environmentally clean.

Collaboration results in more efficient response to emergencies

Firefighters are briefed on scene at the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Firefighters are briefed at the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Eight different fire agencies trained during morning or afternoon sessions, breaking up groups for various skill set station drills. Stations included an “Arizona vortex,” a new piece of equipment fire agencies use for rescues; a review of confined space rescue equipment; and training in confined space permit requirements. Confined space permits are required by OSHA before making any kind of confined space entry or rescue.

Meadowlark staff reviewed the conditions and possible actions within filter station space with fire crews. Staff also explained decision-making for confined space entry, and conditions they might encounter, such as chemical exposure, and lock-out/tag-out requirements.

A firefighter prepares to access the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

A firefighter prepares to access the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The training wrapped up with an all-hands mock confined space drill scenario at the Meadowlark storm wet well. Participants were required to respond to a simulated mechanical failure with a station pump, leaving Vallecitos staff “trapped” in a hole. First responders needed to “rescue” Vallecitos staff. Fire department personnel used the vortex system to rescue personnel trapped in the stormwater wet well. As part of the rescue scenario, fire teams incorporated Vallecitos staff involvement in the rescue mission.

Vallecitos wastewater collection crews also completed the confined space training with the firefighters.

Fire agencies were impressed with the staff and their operation of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility. As a result of training, fire agencies can now respond more efficiently and with confidence.

“We appreciate the collaboration with fire agencies and the time they took to explain their procedures to Vallecitos District staff,” said McDougle. “We look forward to future training with the fire agencies.” 

Firefighting agencies participating in the training included crews from the cities of Carlsbad, San Marcos, Del Mar, Vista, Escondido, Oceanside, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Valley Center, and crews from North County Fire (Fallbrook), San Pasqual and Rincon.

Crews install a carbon fiber liner in Pipeline 4 in October 2019 to give the pipeline several more years of service while a longer-term solution is developed and deployed.

Pipeline 4 Repairs Completed In North San Diego County

Pipeline 4 – one of the San Diego region’s major water pipelines – is back in regular service after a leak was repaired, a testament to the San Diego County Water Authority’s proactive asset management program.

The pipeline resumed normal operations November 10 after nearly two months of modified operation. The leaky section was near Camino Del Rey in Bonsall, in an area with no adjacent homes or businesses.

“The shutdown and repair work went smoothly, and we could not have done it without the support and coordination from Water Authority staff, our contractors and member agencies, particularly, Fallbrook PUD, Rainbow MWD, Valley Center MWD, and Vallecitos Water District,” said Neena Kuzmich, Water Authority engineering manager.

Carbon fiber section will protect Pipeline 4

Water Authority crews detected a leak in the 90-inch diameter Pipeline 4 in the Moosa Canyon area in August.

Crews installed bulkheads in the pipeline to isolate the leak area for repairs. The bulkheads allowed the pipeline to continue treated water deliveries throughout the county in a modified fashion and restored full service to retail water agencies.

The Water Authority installed a carbon fiber liner to give the pipeline several more years of service, while a longer-term solution is developed and implemented.

Once the repairs were completed, a second shutdown was needed to remove the bulkheads and return the pipeline to full, normal operations.

Pipeline 4 is one of five major pipelines operated by the Water Authority.

Crews installed a carbon fiber liner to repair a leak in Pipeline 4 in north San Diego County.

Crews installed a carbon fiber liner to repair a leak in Pipeline 4. The liner will give the pipeline several more years of service while a longer-term solution is developed. Photo: Water Authority

Proactive approach keeps pipelines healthy

By relining the pipes and conducting timely repairs with the latest technology, the Water Authority has avoided major pipeline failures for more than decade.

Extending the life and reliability of major pipelines is one facet of the agency’s proactive asset management program. Real-time monitoring and other pipeline assessment tools help the Water Authority avoid pipeline failures by identifying potential problems in advance.

As part of its proactive approach, the Water Authority continually assesses and rehabilitates pipelines serving the San Diego region. The agency operates 310 miles of large-diameter pipelines, along with 1,600 aqueduct-related structures, and approximately 100 metering/flow-control facilities.

Approximately 82 miles of the pipelines are pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes. These types of pipes were installed between the early 1960s and late 1980s and have experienced premature failures and shown areas of degradation.

In the past few years, the Water Authority has continued to extend the service life of pipelines with relining projects, including Pipeline 3 between Lake Murray and Sweetwater Reservoir, and Pipeline 5, in the Fallbrook area.

Vallecitos Water District ‘Work We Do’ Videos Connect With Community

The Vallecitos Water District is moving beyond traditional bill mailers and tri-fold brochures to communicate with its customers in a more effective and dynamic way by using video.

Vallecitos Board President Hal Martin conceived the idea to create “Work We Do” videos to help customers see and understand first hand the complex work Vallecitos water professionals perform to ensure reliable water and wastewater services. Viewers see and hear from the workers in the field as they complete tasks such as replacing outdated equipment or using smoke testing to detect sewer leaks and protect the environment.

 

Vallecitos Water District Senior Construction Systems Worker Steven Klein hosts the latest "Work We Do" video, describing his team working on a valve replacement. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District ‘Work We Do’ Videos Connect With Community

The Vallecitos Water District is moving beyond traditional bill mailers and tri-fold brochures to communicate with its customers in a more effective and dynamic way by using video.

Vallecitos Board President Hal Martin conceived the idea to create “Work We Do” videos to help customers see and understand first hand the complex work Vallecitos water professionals perform to ensure reliable water and wastewater services. Viewers see and hear from the workers in the field as they complete tasks such as replacing outdated equipment or using smoke testing to detect sewer leaks and protect the environment.

“I’ve seen the quality of staff videos and I realized it was the perfect way to show our customers exactly what we do,” said Martin of the series and the initiative.

Watching crews in action providing the community with reliable drinking water and wastewater services, protecting the environment, and developing the next generation of water workers, makes customers better informed citizens about the area’s vital infrastructure in a transparent way.

The video series also includes helpful information such as how to read water meters.

Online tools transforming community outreach efforts

Vallecitos Water District maintenance professionals perform a valve replacement project featured in the district's latest Work We Do video. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District maintenance professionals perform a valve replacement project featured in the district’s latest Work We Do video. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“We’re working to change our Public Information Department and keep up with current technology,” said Chris Robbins, Vallecitos public information and conservation supervisor.

Robbins said the goal is to feature each department within the district and focus on topics that lend themselves to visual communication. Videos run three minutes or less to keep the audience engaged.

The latest ‘Work We Do’ video in the series features a recent valve replacement

Finished videos are posted to the district website, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The videos can also be seen on the City of San Marcos news channel, San Marcos TV. Videos are also shared through water industry news websites such as Water News Network.

Alicia Yerman, a Vallecitos public information representative, shoots and edits the video series. She schedules time to join crews at work when performing a specific task. She also plays talent scout, finding a knowledgeable employee who can describe the work on camera.

Not all staff want to talk, but Yerman is able to coax at least one Vallecitos staff member to be the ‘on camera talent,’ and she also has a knack for bringing out their best. She finds ways to make staff more comfortable being on camera—either by asking questions or placing staff members in comfortable settings.

Yerman and Public Information Representative Lisa Urabe were recently certified as drone pilots. Future videos will feature district work from a bird’s eye point of view.

Water Authority staff inspect leak in Pipeline 4

Pipeline 4 Repairs Underway in North San Diego County

A recently discovered leak in a section of a pipeline in North County will be repaired in coming months while Pipeline 4 returns to service.

Crews have installed bulkheads in the pipeline to isolate a portion of Pipeline 4 for repairs. This will allow the pipeline to continue treated water deliveries throughout the county in a modified fashion starting the week of Sept. 16 and restores full service to retail water agencies. With the leaky section isolated, crews will make necessary repairs.

Four Water Authority member agencies – Fallbrook PUD, Rainbow MWD, Valley Center MWD, and Vallecitos Water District – have taken steps to manage water supplies while the pipeline was shut down to install the bulkheads.

Carbon fiber section will protect pipe

In August, Water Authority crews detected a leak in the 90-inch diameter Pipeline 4, one of five major pipelines the agency operates. The leaky section is near Camino Del Rey in Bonsall, in an area with no adjacent homes or business.

To find the cause of the leak, the Water Authority dewatered the pipe starting Sept. 9. Preliminary results of the investigation are that a weld seam, connecting a steel pipe section to a pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe, separated in an area of very high water pressure.

The Water Authority is preparing to install a carbon fiber liner to give the pipeline several more years of service while a longer-term solution is developed and deployed.

After repairs are completed, a second 10-day shutdown of Pipeline 4 will be needed to remove the bulkheads and return the pipeline to full, normal operations.

Proactive approach keeps pipelines healthy

As part of its proactive approach to asset management, the Water Authority continually assesses and rehabilitates pipelines serving the San Diego region. The agency operates 310 miles of large-diameter pipelines, along with 1,600 aqueduct-related structures, and approximately 100 metering/flow-control facilities.

Approximately 82 miles of the pipelines are pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes. These types of pipes were installed between the early 1960s and late 1980s, and have experienced premature failures and shown areas of degradation.

By relining the pipes or conducting timely repairs with the latest technology, the Water Authority has avoided major pipeline failures for more than decade.

 

Vallecitos Water District contest winners are honored at the July board L to R: Sierra Whiteside, Zofia Dowd. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

San Diego County Students Inspire Water Conservation Through Art

Three talented fourth grade students in north San Diego County will have their winning drawings featured in the 2020 “Be Water Smart” calendar produced by the Vallecitos Water District. The students were honored by the District’s Board of Directors at its July meeting.

To develop and promote water conservation awareness from an early age, the District holds a calendar contest available to all fourth graders in its service area. The top three drawings go on to represent the District in the regional North County Water Agency calendar for the following year.

Water conservation art features nature themes

Sierra Whiteside is the first place winner and "Viewer's Choice winner in the Vallecitos Water District calendar art contest. Photo: Courtesy Vallecitos Water District

Sierra Whiteside is the first place winner and “Viewer’s Choice” winner in the Vallecitos Water District calendar art contest. Photo: Courtesy Vallecitos Water District

Sierra Whiteside from Carrillo Elementary School won first place and also the “Viewer’s Choice” award through a public vote on the District’s social media channels. She wins a froYo party compliments of Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. Sierra says she will save water by “making an invention that gives you only the water you need.”

Sofia Dowd won second place in the Vallecitos Water District calendar art contest. Photo: Courtesy Vallecitos Water District

Zofia Dowd won second place in the Vallecitos Water District calendar art contest. Photo: Courtesy Vallecitos Water District

Zofia Dowd from Double Peak School received second place for her artwork featuring a whale. Zofia says she will save water by “taking short showers, not running water, taking buckets to fill up water in the rain, and will only use water when needed.”

Lia Van Der Jagt won third place in the Vallecitos Water District calendar art contest. Photo: Courtesy Vallecitos Water District

Lia VanferJagt won third place in the Vallecitos Water District calendar art contest. Photo: Courtesy Vallecitos Water District

Lia VanderJagt, also a student at Double Peak School won third place for her artwork depicting the earth. Lia says she will save water by “doing my best to use less of it and value it more.” She will take shorter showers and only fill her cup to what she can drink.

Skylar Groke from Carrillo Elementary School is the honorable mention winner. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Honorable mention went to Skylar Groke from Carrillo Elementary School for his rainbow artwork.

All winners received Amazon gift cards.

The Vallecitos Water District extends its sincere appreciation to Menchie’s and all of the students who participated in this year’s contest. The contest is held annually with a submission deadline of April 10. Click here for contest rules and entry form. For questions or to receive a free calendar, contact the District’s Public Information Department through email or at (760) 744-0460.

READ MORE: Poster Contest Winners Illustrate ‘Water Is Life’

 

 

Trenchless technology allows the Vallecitor Water District to effect repairs without digging up streets. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Trenchless Technology Saves Ratepayers Time, Money, and Inconvenience

A method of replacing sewer pipe without digging or removing the old pipe – trenchless pipe repair – is saving Vallecitos Water District ratepayers money and reducing traffic delays. It’s another example of how water agencies in San Diego County are tapping cost-effective technology.

The district is using the trenchless method to extend the life of its service pipelines while avoiding the disruption of excavation trenches and traffic rerouting around work areas on public streets. Instead of digging the pipeline up to replace it, the sewer line is rehabilitated from inside the pipe. This trenchless technology method increases the efficiency and the service life of the pipe without having to replace it; eliminating paving, reducing traffic interruptions, as well as saving the District and in turn its ratepayers money.

“Traditional installation methods cause such a disruption to customers daily routine, so we’re really lucky when this type of project presents itself to the District,” said Jason Hubbard, a senior engineer with the district. “Our residents are going to have a much better day without navigating a large construction zone – they can also be quite noisy and dusty. Bottom line, everyone’s happy.”

Avoiding disruption to customers from trenches and traffic rerouting

By avoiding the need for exacation, streets can be kept open and functioning while work progresses. Photo: Vallecitos Water DIstrict

By avoiding the need for exacation, streets can be kept open and functioning while work progresses. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Pipeline integrity can be lost due to a combination of many factors such as missing pieces, cracks, pinholes, offsets at joints, and root intrusion. Numerous methods, technologies and practices are used by water agencies to ensure pipeline integrity.

The Vallecitos Water District works to find innovative technologies to ensure continuing water, wastewater, and reclamation services to a population of 103,000 residents within its 45-square-mile service area. There are 358 miles of water pipelines and 276 miles of sewer pipelines in the VWD’s 45-square-mile service area, serving more than 103,000 residents. The pipelines are designed, built, and operated to be safe, reliable, and sustainable to achieve pipe integrity. This means ensuring a pipeline and all its related components are running properly, no small task.

“We constantly work to maintain a reliable sewer conveyance system by utilizing a plethora of innovative and cost-effective technologies,” said Hubbard.

Trenchless technology also results in cost savings

Trrenchless technology is also cost effect in addition to being less disruption to customers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Trrenchless technology is also cost effect in addition to being less disruption to customers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

VWD employed two types of trenchless rehabilitation methods, cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) liners and spiral wound liners to maintain District pipes. CIPP liners are epoxy saturated felt tubes, which are inserted into the existing pipe, then cured and hardened by steam. There are no joints or seams. Spiral Wound Liners use an above groundwinding machine to feed interlocking PVC profile into an old pipe.

Both methods result in a new “pipe within a pipe.” Little to no digging is involved in this trenchless process, making for a less disruptive and more cost-effective method than traditional “dig and replace” pipe repair methods. The liner can be inserted using water or air pressure. Liner technology is particularly effective in hard to reach areas, such as easements. For projects along residential and business streets, the trenchless method reduces disruptions and impacts to businesses and neighborhoods.

This technology helped the Vallecitos Water District to rehabilitate 1,595 feet of sewer pipe. The district plans to rehabilitate another 2,300 feet in 2020. Sections of critical infrastructure were rehabilitated at an affordable price due to the CIPP and spiral wound liner options. No sewer laterals were cut, and work was done without a sewer bypass. The project was completed with a savings to the District of $37,000 under the estimated budget. The lining part of the operation took less than three hours.

READ MORE: Innovative Relining Program Reduces Cost, Extends Pipeline Service

 

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Collection Systems workers Raul Rodarte (left) and David Saavedra conduct smoke testing. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Smokes Out Wastewater System Problems

Problems in wastewater systems can’t hide behind a smokescreen at the Vallecitos Water District. The district’s Systems Collection Department routinely performs “smoke testing” of its wastewater system. This technique can easily locate flows caused by broken or incorrectly installed sewer pipes, lateral connections, or missing/broken clean-out caps.

The test is performed by introducing smoke, comprised primarily of steam, through a device similar to a fog generating machine, into the wastewater systems. Staff can see if smoke comes out of the system through any leaks or breaches.

“We don’t want clean rainwater entering the sanitary sewer system, because we don’t want to treat clean water down at the treatment plant,” said Matthew Thompson, VWD wastewater collection worker. “We also don’t want to have an open system in case of an emergency, where liquids could exit the system.”

Residents are notified prior to any smoke testing in their neighborhood. The use of the smoke is an approved practice by the U.S. EPA and has no adverse health effects. The smoke used by VWD is non-toxic and dissipates quickly. During the testing process, residents can assist by monitoring the plumbing systems inside their homes to see if they have any internal problems.

Watch how the smoke testing process works in this video.

Crews inject smoke into the sewer system. It bypasses the living quarters of each residence before rising out of vents located on the roof. This is what crews are looking for, because it’s a good indicator there are no illegal hookups to the sewer. Smoke may also escape if the private sewer lateral clean-out is missing its cap.

If smoke emits from the home’s storm drain system or front yard, it could mean there is a possible illegal system connection, or an opening to the sewer that can lead to surplus water levels and subsequent sewer spills.

Field crews take care of any problems that may arise during testing. Residents are notified to disconnect illegal connections or face potential future fines. While the district does not maintain the plumbing inside homes, including the sewer lateral or the clean out, district crews will make simple, inexpensive repairs on the spot as a service to their customers. A doorhanger is left after any quick-fix is completed.

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Collection Systems workers Dennis Richardson (standing) and David Saavedra inject smoke into the sewer system. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Smoke testing

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Collection Systems workers Dennis Richardson (standing) and David Saavedra inject smoke into the sewer system. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“Our ultimate goal is to make the customer happy, and that there is no interrupted service,” said Thompson. “If you see any of the wastewater crew out in the street, feel free to come talk to us and ask us what we’re doing. We’d love to share how we’re helping the system flow.”

In some cases, customers identify sewer problems themselves. District Systems Collection Department staff then determine the source of any potential problems, and how to resolve those problems.

Smoke testing isn’t new, but it might catch residents off guard. It has been used since the 1950s. For more than 10 years, smoke testing has proved to be a valuable ally in sewer maintenance. The Vallecitos Water District performs a minimum of four tests annually to keep its system operating at the optimum level.

 

Vallecitos Water District Smokes Out Wastewater System Problems

Problems in wastewater systems can’t hide behind a smokescreen at the Vallecitos Water District. The district’s Systems Collection Department routinely performs “smoke testing” of its wastewater system. This technique can easily locate flows caused by broken or incorrectly installed sewer pipes, lateral connections, or missing/broken clean-out caps. The test is performed by introducing smoke, comprised primarily of steam, through a device similar to a fog generating machine, into the wastewater systems. Staff can see if smoke comes out of the system through any leaks or breaches.