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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.

America’s Newest Water Safety Challenge is Something You’ve Never Heard Of

The United States has some of the safest drinking water in the world. But its water supply is facing a new challenge — a slimy growth inside pipes that is encouraging outbreaks of illness responsible for over 7 million illnesses and 6,000 deaths every year.

That’s the disturbing finding of a new analysis of waterborne disease from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was 10 years in the making.

Water Utility Hero of the Week, LaMont Foster, Santa Fe Irrigation 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. LaMont Foster, Santa Fe Irrigation District Utility Worker I, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

PFAS Limits in Drinking Water to Take More Than a Year, EPA Says

The EPA won’t be able to set drinking water limits for two PFAS chemicals in the next year, agency administrator Andrew Wheeler told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency determined that it’ll set maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for the two chemicals—PFOA and PFOS—in drinking water, but hasn’t proposed what those limits should be.

Sweetwater Authority Governing Board and essential employees display dedication to service, community during COVID-19 crisis

Chula Vista, Calif. – In the midst of an unprecedented crisis, Sweetwater Authority (Authority) Board Members and employees have focused all efforts on accomplishing three key goals: provide safe, reliable water; do our part to protect customers from financial impacts of the pandemic; and care for the community we serve.

(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.”