(L to R) Helix WD employees John Wilson, Eric Hughes, Dan Baker and Bryan Watte, and Padre Dam MWD workers Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley. Photo: Helix Water District Paradise Irrigation District

San Diego Water Pros Aid Paradise Irrigation District Following Camp Fire

Six water professionals from the Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District spent one week in August assisting the Paradise Irrigation District with disaster recovery in the wake of the devastating Camp Fire.

The Camp Fire burned through the town of Paradise, California in November 2018. CAL FIRE reported the fire burned 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,804 structures and resulted in 85 civilian fatalities and several firefighter injuries. The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, according to CAL FIRE.

Ten months later, Paradise remains hard at work on recovery efforts.

The fire caused significant damage to the Paradise Irrigation District’s infrastructure. As a result, more than 10,500 customers fell under a “Do Not Drink” advisory due to contamination from several harmful volatile organic compounds in distribution pipelines.

Austin Darley and Jesse Knowles hard at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Austin Darley (kneeling) and Jesse Knowles hard at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Padre Dam employees Austin Darley and Jesse Knowles, and Helix employees John Wilson, Dan Baker, Eric Hughes and Bryan Watte, spent a week in Paradise working to help ensure water system safety. While most customers have water service restored, the water quality is being carefully monitored.

“The majority of the work we did revolved around keeping customers in water during a three-day testing period, and reestablishing water service through a plastic jumper after samples had been drawn,” said Darley.

State emergency assistance system activated to provide mutual aid

Helix and Padre Dam are among 14 member agencies and the Water Authority participating in the California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, or CalWARN, to support and promote statewide emergency preparedness, disaster response, and mutual assistance processes for public and private water and wastewater utilities.

Damage remaining from the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Damage remaining from the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“This program is like an insurance policy that can provide assistance when an emergency becomes larger than our internal resources can deal with,” said Melissa McChesney, Padre Dam Communications Manager. “The situation Paradise Irrigation District finds themselves in is a good example of this. We also have agreements with neighboring water agencies in which we call upon each other for equipment or staffing when needed.”

The agencies identified staff with the skills and experience to help the Paradise Irrigation District. All agreed to volunteer for the mutual aid mission. Padre Dam employees Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley were selected to help.

“Jesse and I feel very blessed to work for an organization that is passionate about helping those in need,” said Darley. “It was an important reminder that recovery efforts continue long after the disaster leaves the news. Paradise is still in need of our thoughts, prayers, and help.”

Recovery effort not over for Paradise Irrigation District

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Helix Water District crews at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Helix Water District crews at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“There’s a lot of work up here but the town is healing,” wrote Helix employee Dan Baker while working in Paradise. “I think I speak for all four of us when I say I’m proud to be a part of this.”

Water service for burned lots will be replaced as recovery progresses and new homes are built.

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to assist our fellow Californians with this recovery effort,” added Darley. “Although we exist 600 miles apart we all have the same goal, to deliver safe and reliable drinking water to our residents and communities.”

Arsenic, Nitrate Found In California Water Systems

California’s water quality issues are most severe in the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast Regions, and smaller water systems face more challenges than larger suppliers, according to a new first-ever statewide analysis of drinking water. California has the fifth largest economy in the world, but more than 1 million of the state’s nearly 40 million people don’t have access to safe and affordable drinking water. The California Office of Health Hazard Assessment looked at 2,903 community water systems across the state that serve at least 15 year-round connections and evaluated them based on contaminant exposure levels, sustainability, and cost…

Judge Weighs Newark’s Response to Lead in Its Water (4)

Environmental and community advocates are calling for a federal judge to order the city of Newark to speed its response to lead contamination of drinking water. They are asking Judge Esther Salas of U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to make the city expand and improve its distribution of bottled water and tap filters, as well as expedite a plan to replace lead pipes. Salas pressed the lawyer for Newark, Eric L. Klein of Beveridge & Diamond PC, on the adequacy of the city’s response, amid Aug. 15 arguments on the request for expanded water…

Notable Sonoma County Wine Executive’s Vineyard Business Firm Accused Of Water Quality Violations

Prominent Sonoma County wine executive Hugh Reimers, who last month abruptly left as president of Foley Family Wines, faces allegations that his grape growing company has violated regional, state and federal water quality laws for improperly clearing land near Cloverdale to build a vineyard. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Board accused his Santa Rosa vineyard management company, Krasilsa Pacific Farms, of violations of the water board’s local water rules, the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act for clearing and grading 140 acres. The water quality board concluded the work on a section of Krasilsa Pacific’s more than 2,000-acre property was done without applying or obtaining the necessary permits required by the county to operate a vineyard.

Local Water Providers Have Racked Up Dozens of Violations

In theory, because water is hard to come by in the arid West, it should be well taken care of.

But the West sometimes squanders its limited water. We have contaminated creeks, polluted rivers, broken bays, fouled beaches and, even today, hundreds of thousands of people across California who lack reliably safe drinking water.

OPINION: It’s Time To Finally Adopt A Russian River Plan

Here’s a safe prediction: Generations to come will be thankful for everything done today to protect the Russian River. Here’s another: Restoring and preserving the river’s health will become more challenging and expensive each time action is delayed. As reported in The Press Democrat by Staff Writer Mary Callahan, delay has been a central feature of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s efforts to adopt a plan to protect and improve the Russian River’s water quality. The delay so far has been excusable — earlier drafts of the plan needed refinements, and California’s water quality regulations have changed — but now it’s time to move forward. The third iteration since 2015 of the regional water board’s staff report and draft action plan for the Russian River are now out for review and comment.

Water Board Places 10 County Agencies On Notice To Clean Up San Diego River

The San Diego Water Board is asking 10 local agencies, including the city and county of San Diego, to curtail the flow of human fecal matter into the San Diego River. The problem has gotten worse over the last few years to the point it’s being compared with similar issues along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the state agency that monitors the region’s water quality, “While we’ve all known about the border issue — the Tijuana water shed — it was surprising to find out there was actually a lot of human waste present in the San Diego River water shed,” said David Gibson, San Diego Water Board Executive Officer.

Californians With Bad Water Ask For Help While Opposition Mounts To Newsom’s Proposed Tax

Californians with unhealthy drinking water pleaded for help from lawmakers this week but opposition quickly developed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to pay for system improvements with a new fee. “We just upped our water rates, and to turn around and give them a tax on their meter is just not feasible,” said Maxine Israel, director at the Cabazon Water District, which serves about 2,500 customers near Palm Springs.

Boil Water Advisory Issued for Campo-Area Community in East County

A boil water advisory was issued Friday for the Lake Morena County Park water distribution system in a rural community northwest of Campo. The drinking water system at 2550 Lake Morena Drive tested positive for E. Coli bacteria, which indicates the water may be contaminated with human or animal waste, according to the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health. The drinking water distribution system serves recreational camping and RV sites, cabins, staff housing and public restrooms and showers in the Lake Morena Village community.

Hot Weather, Land Abuses Fueling Algal Blooms In Western Waters

The West is known for summer wildfires. Now it seems Western summers will be distinguished by another kind of flare-up: algae blooms. This summer has witnessed an explosion of algae problems in Western water bodies. Usually marked by a bright green mat of floating scum, the blooms are unsightly and unpleasant for water lovers. More concerning are potentially toxic cyanobacteria often produced by the algae, which can be deadly to pets and livestock and cause illnesses in people. These harmful algal blooms have popped up in freshwater lakes and streams for years.