Del Oro treatment plant worries Springville residents

Residents of Springville turn out in numbers to share their frustrations with Del Oro Water.(Kenny Goodman)

As Springville residents await Del Oro’s new water treatment plant to finish construction, worries arise that their wells are not only transporting poor water, but could also overload the wells’ electrical system

SPRINGVILLE – After months of back and forth between residents and their water supplier, Springville is set to get a new water treatment plant sometime during November. The Water Warriors Against Del Oro (WWADO), a group of outspoken residents, have once again highlighted concerns brought about in the aftermath of March flooding.

While Del Oro Water Company’s (DOWC) treatment plant inches towards completion, with an initial testing startup scheduled for mid-October after being in development limbo for 10 years, the water supplier has worked to bring online three wells which were previously damaged in the flood. While this has created a steady water supply for the community, some residents have expressed concern due to all three wells being connected to the same electric panel.

“Wells draw a lot of power,” said Rafaella Woods, the resident leading the charge against Del Oro. “Having all three wells on one panel puts a lot of strain (on the panel), so it creates a serious fire risk.”

Aside from the well repairs, another initiative taken to get water to residents — a water handout instigated by Senator Shanon Grove — has also taken a turn after their initial supply ran out during the last weeks of August.

“I think they (the distributors at the country club) got more water on Sept. 1, and I want to say we were without any for at least 10 days (before then),” said Woods.

Senator Grove held a water distribution event on Aug. 11 at the River Island Country Club, where she and her team provided Springville residents with drinking water as they waited for wells to be repaired. Although Grove and her team said residents would be able to pick up water “from 2-6 (p.m.) every day,” once the initial supply ran out, they left the responsibility to Del Oro, who — according to Woods — have only made the service available three times a week.

“Now that they’ve restocked, they only give it to us three days a week,” Woods said. “Six gallons per (household).”

As of Sept. 29, this service was further limited to two pick-up days a week, whereas the initial handout was seven days a week and two packs of individual bottles per individual, as well as a case of gallon water jugs (per household).

CONCERN ON CONTAMINANTS

While many of Springville’s homes now have access to regular water, residents report that it still smells bad and is not safe for consumption. According to Woods, the implementation of the treatment plant, while it will provide access to more water, won’t help increase the quality of what Del Oro has been providing since they got the three wells back online.

“I don’t think all (of our) issues will be solved (by) the treatment plant,” Woods said. “According to Del Oro, this treatment plant will not get rid of the uranium, the nitrous, the arsenic in the gross alpha, so why are we paying $9 million dollars for something that will not fix our issues?”

Woods continued by saying that Adam Forbes, the senior water resources control engineer for the Visalia District State Water Resources Control Board, has gone on record stating that the water system started construction on the plant due to uranium exceedance in the well water that currently supplies the residents.

However, while the treatment plant won’t treat water for uranium or nitrates, this should not be a cause for concern. The water it will pull from —the Pleasant Valley Canal — has insignificant levels of both chemicals, according to engineers from Del Oro. During a public meeting on Feb. 27, 2018, the company addressed questions about the future plant.

According to the engineers, “The 2-year water quality study indicates that there are insignificant levels of radiological activity (well below the MCL standards) and nitrate (sample results indicating not-detected to trace amounts well below the MCL standards) and these constituents are expected to remain at low levels in the surface water.”

They went on to clarify that the plant “is not designed to remove uranium and nitrate (as) the 2-year water quality study indicates that there are insignificant levels of radiological activity and (nitrates).”

Water quality aside, Woods also feels the implementation of the new treatment plant is unfair to the residents, given they had to pay for it with an increase to their water bills. Instead, the activist feels the $4 million paid by residents should be covered by the person or organization who drew out the plant’s implementation.

“The original loan (for the plant) was like $5 million, and someone sat on their hands (for ten years) and now it’s costing them $9 million,” Woods said. “Why are we playing the $4 million difference? Whoever sat on their hands should pay… if it was the state, they should fork up the $4 million; if it was Del Oro, they should fork up the $4 million.”

NEW SOURCE

As of press time, the plant is scheduled for completion in November after it passes initial testing, which will take place sometime during this month. Once it’s complete, it will act as the source for the people of Springville.

According to Janice Hanna — Del Oro’s director of accounting and regulatory affairs — once the plant finishes completion and begins operation in November, the wells currently supplying Springville will become backup sources, which will be used should the canal ever dry up during a drought or become inaccessible for any other reason. In the meantime, Del Oro is also working to obtain new wells, drilling one by the plant and working with two residents to acquire their personal wells.

“The state is requiring us to have backups for instances such as the canal needing to be shut down for cleaning, or similar things of the sort,” Hanna said. “With all these wells we have to go through the state water board for approval, making sure they’re in line with all the regulations we have to follow.”

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