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Vallecitos Water District Crews Rehab Manhole, Protecting Environment

Vallecitos Water District crews sprang into action to repair and rehabilitate a manhole in danger of failing, successfully preventing a spill, which could have resulted in significant environmental damage.

Located just off Palomar Airport Road in a shared 30-foot easement with the Buena Sanitation District in Carlsbad, the manhole is part of a 30-inch outfall providing a main sewage drain for the City of San Marcos. The line feeds directly into the Encinas Wastewater Treatment plant a half-mile from the project site.

This temporary bridge allowed Vallecitos Water District crews to repair a manhole without affected sensitive habitat. Photo: Vallecitos Water District rehab manhole

Vallecitos Water District Crews Rehab Manhole, Protecting Environment  

Vallecitos Water District crews sprang into action to repair and rehabilitate a manhole in danger of failing, successfully preventing a spill, which could have resulted in significant environmental damage.

Located just off Palomar Airport Road in a shared 30-foot easement with the Buena Sanitation District in Carlsbad, the manhole is part of a 30-inch outfall providing a main sewage drain for the City of San Marcos. The line feeds directly into the Encina Wastewater Treatment plant a half-mile from the project site.

Originally constructed in the 1980s, turbulence generated by a hard right-turn along the sewer easement creates hydrogen sulfide gases. These gases corrode concrete and weakened the manhole over the years. Flooding also occurs in the area and allows rainfall to infiltrate the manhole.

Preventing harm to sensitive habitat areas

Vallecitos Water District staff became concerned the structure could fail. The result would be a major sewage spill affecting the nearby Encinas Creek Habitat Conservation Area, ultimately spilling into the Pacific Ocean a mile downstream. The Habitat Conservation Area is owned by the Center for Natural Lands Management, which supports its management through an endowment.

The Encinas Creek HCA is also part of the City of Carlsbad’s habitat management preserve. It includes riparian habitat and is known to be home to state and federally protected species. The Center for Natural Lands Management works to protect the property from trespassing, nonnative invasive plant and animal species, and other issues.

The District determined emergency repairs were required. Although the Vallecitos Water District has proper easement rights to access, operate, and maintain the pipeline, the agency must avoid any impact to the existing habitat while repairing the manhole. This required some creativity by the work crews.

Creative thinking provides access for repairs

A look at the newly repaired manhole. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

A look at the newly repaired manhole. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The District kept all construction activities within its existing easement to avoid any impacts to existing riparian vegetation. Crews constructed a temporary bridge over an existing stream obstructing access to the manhole. The bridge installation was designed to be temporary, and not affect the existing stream with footings or other supports. Constructing the bridge for access turned out to be the most complex part of the repair project.

District crews working with a contractor team took advantage of the lower sewage flow during the early morning hours, starting work at 3 a.m. to get as low into the waterline as possible. Repairs like this take advantage of the low flows to keep critically important sewer systems in operation.

Instead of replacing the manhole, the District used a polymer concrete replacement product to build a new manhole within the old manhole. As a result, no excavation was needed. Unlike regular concrete, the new material is corrosion-proof and should provide District customers in San Marcos with many years of reliable service while protecting the environment.

Vallecitos Water District Employs Technology to Decrease TSS, pH and Algal Blooms

Vallecitos Water District provides 5.25 million gallons of recycled water for irrigation every day. To fulfill the demands of modern irrigation systems, it is important to maintain low TSS levels. This is a challenge during the warm months in California, as algae that occur with raising temperatures, increase the level of TSS and clog the filters that are meant to remove TSS before the distribution of water to the irrigation systems.

Vallecitos Water District is known for its’ sustainable and innovative focus when it comes to water and wastewater treatment.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Tech, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Technician Dale Austin encourages military veterans to consider water industry careers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Tech, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Dale Austin

Job/Agency: Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Tech

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I had friends and a neighbor that worked for different agencies and different jobs. They all talked highly of their agencies and the jobs they did. I wasn’t sure where I would fit into the industry so I took classes in Water Distribution, Water Treatment, and Wastewater Treatment. I learned so much in those classes. I applied and got my first job in Water Distribution where I could apply my skills as a Certified Pipe Line Welder and Machinist, but my passion has always been in mechanical, so I transferred to a treatment plant which led me to my current job with Vallecitos.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

I pride myself in having my equipment 100% available, so with the pandemic Vallecitos is doing a rotating schedule to help with distancing and safeguarding the crews. Staying in contact with the crew on duty via email and phone. Prioritizing work loads and talking to vendors. I don’t personally like to carry my phone when not at work but with the pandemic it is a very important tool to stay in contact with everyone.

How are you keeping safe?

By following guidelines from the CDC, maintaining social distancing, and following good hygiene.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

Sitting down at a restaurant for dinner and going to the movies with my wife.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map 

Tank Cleaning Program Helps Vallecitos Water District Maintain Safe Water Supply

Seventeen above ground steel tanks and two underground concrete reservoirs play a vital role in the Vallecitos Water District’s mission to provide clean, safe, and reliable water to its 105,000 district residents. Maintenance and cleaning of the tanks and reservoirs is a critically important process.

Without regular washouts, tanks can accumulate large amounts of sediment, prohibiting proper inspections.

 

maintain safe water supply

Tank Cleaning Program Helps Vallecitos Water District Maintain Safe Water Supply

Seventeen above ground steel tanks and two underground concrete reservoirs play a vital role in the Vallecitos Water District’s mission to provide clean, safe, and reliable water to its 105,000 district residents. Maintenance and cleaning of the tanks and reservoirs is a critically important process.

Without regular washouts, tanks can accumulate large amounts of sediment, prohibiting proper inspections.

California State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water standards require that tanks must be cleaned every three years.

Vallecitos Water Operations’ team cleans up to six tanks annually. Regulations call for the district’s six certified water operators to empty and enter the tanks for inspection to ensure there is no structural damage or other concerns prior to the tank washout to ensure continued operation of the water distribution system. Vallecitos adheres to a strict inspection schedule as part of its preventative maintenance program.

“We want customers to know we’re being diligent protecting the water infrastructure,” said Richie Arballo, senior water systems operator. “If we find an issue where a tank needs to be refurbished, we want to correct it as soon as possible, before it becomes an emergency.”

Coordinating tank cleaning a complex operation

The drained interior of a Vallecitos Water District tank during the cleaning and inspection process. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The drained interior of a Vallecitos Water District tank during the cleaning and inspection process. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos staff schedules tank cleaning during winter months when water demand decreases. Initial steps include how to best reroute water delivery while tanks are taken out of service for cleaning. After the tank is drained, water operations staff enter the tank for a thorough inspection, followed by cleaning and disinfection.

When the process is complete, staff refills the tank near its spill level and allows the water to stand for 24 hours before conducting water quality analysis. Once lab results are reported and submitted to the state’s Division of Drinking Water, it will determine when the tank can be placed back in service.

Tank cleaning began in March but was put on hold due recent rains and the coronavirus pandemic, with the the need for physical distancing. See the cleaning process depicted in this video.

Safety and environmental stewardship

During draining, water is discharged to a storm drain or dirt area where it is absorbed back into the ground naturally. Once the tank is removed from service, it is isolated from the water distribution system. Valves are secured and double-checked to be sure they are completely closed. Staff members wear respiratory protection due to chemicals used during the disinfection of the tank interior.

Cleaning and disinfecting the large reservoirs requires teamwork. The Water Operations team calls on staff from the Vallecitos Water District Collections and Construction departments to augment and support its personnel.

Vallecitos Water District employee Joey Shore cleans of the district's 17 steel tanks. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District employee Joey Shore cleans of the district’s 17 steel tanks. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“When we all work together it really shows how much of a team we are here at the District,” said Shawn Askine, water systems supervisor. “We are very fortunate at Vallecitos to have employees willing to come out and help us clean the tanks properly and effectively, so we are utilizing customer dollars as efficiently as possible.”

Due to the amount of equipment and coordination required, the Vallecitos Water District created a customized trailer specifically for conducting tank cleaning. The small investment allows all required equipment to be stored on the trailer, ready to go on the day of the scheduled cleaning. The trailer and equipment significantly streamline the process and ensures all parts, fittings, and washout equipment are available to get the job done effectively.

Customer Thanks Vallecitos Water District Employees for Their Efforts

Most Americans take a safe and reliable water supply for granted. Dedicated water and wastewater professionals, including Vallecitos Water District employees, work to provide a secure, plentiful supply of drinking water.

Vallecitos Water District customer Manisha Bambhania has a deeper appreciation. A native of India, Bambhania grew up in a home where running water was only available three hours per day, and sometimes much less.

Bambhania frequently posted favorable comments on Vallecitos Water District Facebook posts.

“She would commonly write words like, ‘We all need to conserve, regardless of the drought,’ or ‘Thank you for all you do. We are so grateful for the services you are providing,’” said Public Information Representative Lisa Urabe.

(L to R) Vallecitos Water District employees at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility: Ivan Murguia, Arturo Sanchez, Dawn McDougle, Chris Deering, Marc Smith, and Matt Wiese. Photo: Vallecitos Water District employees

Customer Thanks Vallecitos Water District Employees for Their Efforts

Most Americans take a safe and reliable water supply for granted. Dedicated water and wastewater professionals, including Vallecitos Water District employees, work to provide a secure, plentiful supply of drinking water.

Vallecitos Water District customer Manisha Bambhania has a deeper appreciation. A native of India, Bambhania grew up in a home where running water was only available three hours per day, and sometimes much less.

Bambhania frequently posted favorable comments on Vallecitos Water District Facebook posts. “She would commonly write words like, ‘We all need to conserve, regardless of the drought,’ or ‘Thank you for all you do. We are so grateful for the services you are providing,’” said Public Information Representative Lisa Urabe.

“After more than a year of continued praise from Manisha, the public information staff reached out to her to thank her in person for her comments,” said Urabe. “We met at her house where she proceeded to tell us her story of growing up in India. Even though she lived in an upper middle-class neighborhood, water scarcity and lack of reliable water and wastewater infrastructure was a very real part of daily living.”

Vallecitos staff created a video to share Bambhania’s story about the work of Vallecitos Water District employees.

Vallecitos Water District employees ‘inspired’

Vallecitos employees viewed the video at a recent all-staff meeting. One of those employees is Dennis Richardson, who has worked for the agency the past 13 years.

“I thought it was incredible for a customer to actually thank the employees for the jobs that they do, and also to give us her past life experience of living in India and the importance of the water to the community,” said Richardson. “I was really inspired by her video.”

Other staff were also pleased at the positive remarks for their work.

“We all enjoy our jobs, and take great pride in what we do in serving the public,” said Shawn Askine, a water systems supervisor. “We’re happy citizens recognize the hard work we do providing clean reliable water to your tap everyday.”

The original video featuring Manisha Bambhania has also won statewide recognition from the California Water Environment Association Film Festival.

Vallecitos Water District waterwater technicians Chris Deering and Matt Wiess at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility. Photo: Vallecitos Water District employees

Vallecitos Water District wastewater technicians Chris Deering and Matt Wiess at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Nieves family's landscape makeover project won the Sweetwater Authority's contest in 2019. Photo: Sweetwater Authority 2020 landscape makeover

2020 Landscape Makeover Competition Opens Call For Entries

Fourteen water agencies in San Diego County seek the best in landscaping makeover projects for the regional WaterSmart 2020 Landscape Makeover competition. The annual contest offers the opportunity to showcase residential waterwise landscaping as a way to inspire other homeowners to consider replacing water-guzzling turf based designs.

The contest deadline for all participating agencies has now been extended to Friday, May 29. Homeowners may submit their entry online. You must be a resident within agency boundaries to participate. Each agency winner receives a $250 gift certificate and recognition on the agency website and social media channels.

Deborah Brandt's winning landscape includes contrasting elements, such a cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Deborah Brandt’s 2019 winning landscape for the Vista Irrigation District includes contrasting elements, such as cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Participating agencies include California American Water, the cities of Escondido, Oceanside, and San Diego, Fallbrook Public Utility District, Helix Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Rincon Del Diablo Water District, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, and Vista Irrigation District.

“With rebates available for turf removal, now is a great time to replace your lawn with a beautiful WaterSmart landscape,” said Brent Reyes, water conservation specialist for the Vista Irrigation District.

Turf removal saves estimated 36 million gallons annually

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell transformed 2,500 square feet of turf into their own Conservation Garden in La Mesa, winning the 2019 Oty Water District Landscaping Contest. Photo: Otay Water District

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell transformed 2,500 square feet of turf into their own conservation garden in La Mesa, winning the 2019 Otay Water District Landscaping Contest. Photo: Otay Water District

With a majority of residential water use in San Diego County attributed to watering landscapes, regional water efficiency efforts focus on outdoor water use.  By showcasing their beautiful landscape in the WaterSmart Landscape Contest, homeowners can offer ideas and demonstrate how waterwise landscaping can be attractive as well.

Thanks to ongoing education and incentives, San Diego County residents have targeted more than one million square feet of turf grass for replacement with WaterSmart landscaping through free landscape makeover classes sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority between 2013 and 2018. The Water Authority has documented an estimated savings of 33 million gallons annually,

Online landscape makeover tips available

If you need some inspiration or guidance, WaterSmartSD offers landscape makeover videos you can view on demand. This series of videos mirrors the content of the in-person workshops and four-class series. Each video takes you step-by-step through the process of creating your own beautiful, water-efficient landscape.

From measuring your property to getting to know your soil to picking the right plants for the right place, these entertaining and informative videos will guide you along the path to a WaterSmart landscape.

In addition, WaterSmartSD provides a list of online resources and guides to planning your landscape design project, soil analysis, compost and mulch, plant choices, and irrigation.

For additional information on 2020 Landscape Makeover Contest entry rules, go to WaterSmartLandscapes.

Click on the gallery below for more 2020 landscape makeover inspiration from past winners.