Some Responses to the Presentation by City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy: Update on Well #16 and Well #8.

Livingston, California

On September 03, 2013, City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy gave a presentation to the City Council about the progress being made to get Well #16  back online.

(There had been several discussions about the Well and what needed to be done in order to get the Well back online. These discussions took place at Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee Meetings and at City Council Meetings.)

This is a partial Word-for-Word Transcription of what was said that evening: except for the “Um’s”, “Uh’s” and a few other Verbal Ticks.

As of the date of this posting, 10/12/2013, Draft Meeting Minutes have not yet been prepared by the City. A Video Record of the Meeting is available on the City’s website. If you want to watch it yourself, CLICK HERE, then click on the link for the September 3 City Council Meeting Video. (And please let me know if I have made any significant errors in the transcription so I can fix them)

This Transcription begins about 8 minutes in (times are approximate) with the City Engineer stating:

As you know, the well was installed by the developer for Sunvalley Estates, designed and installed with the development and dedicated to the City. It was constructed in 2008. After the City operated the well between 2008-2010, during that time the Media was not manufactured anymore. and the City also found out that it was not a very efficient media…around 2010 they had to shut down the well because of problems with the Media performance: the breakthrough was happening.

The City’s operations crew tried their best to continue operating the well. But, the Media, because of its qualities, also because of its being very expensive, it was decided the City should start looking at other alternatives.

In 2011, City Staff, Public Works Staff, started exploring other Media and looked at several Media that were readily available in the Market. We started with about 4 or 5 Media that are widely used and a Pilot Study was conducted. Based on the results, UC Davis was contracted to perform what you call a Rapid Small Scale Test to compare the performance of all the Medial.

Of the Media that were tested, only two were selected as the top candidates for further evaluation that was done. Based on the results, the City requested proposals from the two Suppliers: providers of the media. Staff obtained data and compared the costs. These proposals from both the suppliers were presented to the Stakeholders and analysis of their costs were presented.

(12:21) During this process, these were presented in May of 2012 to the Stakeholders. The Proposals were in June and August: June, July and August when both the Media Suppliers improved on their proposals and guarantees that the City Required.

In September 2012, Staff made a recommendation for Filtronics…to be the preferred: based on their guarantee. Which was much superior compared to everyone else.

(12:45) In October of 2012, the City Council awarded a contract to Filtronics. After the award there were some time taken to evaluate the City’s other alternatives. For example: because of the cost, the City wanted to evaluate the possibility of bringing on another well into production.

Some well tests were done. Well 17 being one of them and also well 10. There were some evaluations of the costs that were performed. the City decided to proceed with the Filtronics Media change. Right now we are at the very end of installation. All of the Media change and associated work has been completed.

(Then, after explaining the Suppliers guarantee that the Media life would be 184 Million Gallons, and that how long the Media would last,  in terms of time, would depend on how much water was run through it on a daily basis, (15:51) Jeff Black talked about the various pieces of equipment that were installed and why they were needed. At (19:01) Mr. black went over the list of Remaining Steps needed to return Well #16 to Service)

At (20:07) The City Engineer continued by stating:

Just wanted to (discuss) the steps that are remaining to get the well online: We’ve been discussing that with Public Works staff. Jeff Black has been assisting us. We are getting that scheduled in the next week. We also have been in touch with CDPH so that once the Calibrations process is done, they can come and take a look at the operations.

The Operations Plan: the draft has been prepared. CDPH has indicated to us that they are going to, after the field inspections, they will be able to review the Operations Plan quickly and work with the City to get the Plant on line.

At that point, the City Engineer asked if there were any questions.

(21:04) Mayor Espinoza

I know that we pushed, the council pushed back in 2008 and on to get well 16 online. I know we spent $250,000-$300,000, I can’t remember the correct amount. We were told it was going to last a long time. Of course, (it) was two years. But I was-I don’t remember the council being aware at least I wasn’t told, the Well 16 wasn’t running. Until we found out: City Manager told us it had been shut down.

I felt down because I thought this would be cleaning up ore of the water. Now we’re having to spend a lot more money again to bring it up: New Media and all that.

We weren’t told there wasn’t enough Media or there’s something wrong with the Media, or anything was going on. We gotta spend what we gotta spend. But I just don’t like that the Council doesn’t get advised or told if there’s a problem or issues with the wells. Anybody else have any other comments?

(22:20) Mayor Pro-Temp Samra

Just a question for whoever wants to answer. If that’s the only steps that are required. I was updated, I believe last week, there was some issue with having to put some additional hardware? Is that no longer the case?

(23:27) City Engineer

Here, I just want to clarify: the Media Change-Out Process which the Mayor indicated. Originally, when the original Media was put in, Dow Media was put in, that was a developer funded well: Including the Media at the time. Public Works at that time was in charge..I was not very involved in the Operations Process. So I cannot tell…But there were problems. I want to make sure that this process of Media Change-Out is completed. What the task of getting the PH Adjustment and getting the well to be ready to be put online. Except those final calibrations, that we are scheduling very soon, the well can be operated: put online.

(24:24) But, however there are certain improvements that can be and would be beneficial to the City to plan on and implement in the near future: to improve the efficiency of operations, improve performance of the system.

There are certain deficiencies in the original design. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles. It has the bare minimum. So that makes the operations not as easy as would be a modern plant. For reasons that are something that I didn’t have control on, they were not put into that System. However, those improvements can be taken up as a future phase. Those would enhance the performance of the system. For example :VFD’s (Variable Frequency Drives)

(26:31) Samra

I’m somewhat confused. I was advised and you were in the office, Mr. Ramirez’s office, that the reason the well didn’t come online last week is because there was request for additional funds: because if we don’t do these upgrades that they were requesting, the media was only going to last about 3 months. I’m not sure where where all that came from. I’m not sure what’s going on.

Are you telling me, if we leave the system the way it is, it’ll still be with the 14 months we were originally told? Is that what I’m told? I was told that if we put the Automated whatever, that it would go to 14 months. But now you’re saying that without those upgrades we can go 14 months. I’m somewhat confused because we didn’t move foreword with calibration last week because there were some requests for additional funds.

But now you are saying we can proceed without those upgrades. I just need a clarification because I’m getting two different stories here. and you were in the Office, Mr. Ramirez was in the office, Mr. Ortiz was in the office. This is not what I was told last week. So, can I get a clarification on this please?

(26:56) City Manager

Sure. I’d like to clarify that Mayor Pro-Temp. As you know, staff, myself and whether it’s public works or whether it’s the Finance Department, whenever we’re moving whatever it is: construction project or whatever program, if we see there is any small red flags or big red flags, we’d like to question the project manager, etc. etc.

So this particular case, when after the Media was installed and they were going through the different operations, our Public Works Director identified, asked staff to, as they were running through the system, “Hey. Can you go ahead and turn off, turn on the VFD?” Which stands for Variable Frequency Drive.

So in modernization processes, that’s something that you go with all the time. When we found out that that was not incorporated into this particular system we said “Why not?” We were told, after further analysis, the the reason why it wasn’t there was because the direction was just to go ahead with Change-Out the Media.

So the first question I had was, having an Engineering background myself, was “OK. I want to make sure that the Media, which is our most expensive component, is not lost because of, you know you want to reduce operator error to 0 if you can.

And therefore…The other piece is of course, whether or not you’re going (to) incorporate other control measures. So when I was discussing that with the City Engineer, I basically said, well if we’re going to go ahead and do this, then there has to be a Change Order and I’m not going to approve a Change-Order of that magnitude: that’s something that needs to go to the Council.

So our City Engineer, with Staff, went back to the Manufacturer and said, OK if we do it the way that it’s been intended the whole way through, can you guarantee us on the Media Side, if we add a few other measures that are not that expensive, can we move forward?

So I asked the City Engineer to go ahead and ask for that in writing and talk to the Manufacturer. So there is going to be a few adjustments that’s not going to involve a Variable Frequency Drive, but it’s going to involve some Orifice Plates and I don’t know if you guys want to elaborate a little bit on that. Hopefully that provides some clarification.

(29:30) Espinoza: Actually less than $50,000

City Manager

Yes, it will be less than that. I think you have a dollar amount.

City Engineer

We are definitely looking into the improvements: including alternate VFD’s. We are looking at Orifices, which are going to be much cheaper. At this time, Mr. Black is helping us: researching the advantages and disadvantages. We’re going to make sure that before any of these Improvements to the system are done, they are done in a comprehensive way: the most economical as well as we want to make sure that all the Operational Improvements that are Preferred by Public Works are all needed improvements: that are all looked into.

But Mr. Mayor is correct. I did contact the Media Suppliers to ask that question about without these enhancements or improvements, can these guarantees hold? And a very clear answer was yes; they are guaranteeing and they based it on the existing system. they have visited the site many times.

As you know, they’ve been here a few times, at least a couple of times to City Council and a couple of times at the Stakeholders Committee and they have extensively worked with the Staff.

(31:11) They have indicated that what we have done already, the automation of the wells is an Improvement already and if you ask me “Is it a zero risk. Its not. There’s a small risk of something. That is what I asked the Supplier as well: What’s the risk of Media Wash-out. They are really not concerned. They think that, with proper operation of course, that risk is very minimal. And with the automatic valves, we have already improved it to a level higher that what they based their guarantees on. They think the Media, with proper attention, and depending on how much we use it for, It could last much longer.

It would be, depending on how much water we want to run through the system, it could be 2 to 3 years.

(32:44) Mayor Espinoza:

We have a new system were going to: kinda like a redesign of the Media filtering system. Right? So was it your company, is the one that designed the first one that handled the first Media and only lasted a couple years. And now were redesigning the whole thing to take a different media.

Because you said there is not that type of Media any more so now we’re having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to change to a different Media now. And can you guarantee us in a couple years more we’re not going to spend another half of million dollars or whatever it is to do a different change out?

City Engineer: We were not involved in the design. It was, the original design was done by the developer’s engineer: Hydroscience Engineers. We had nothing to do with the design. Unfortunately at that time: even with the review of the project. Personally, I didn’t know about the operational difficulties until much later. I came to know about it even after the shut down of the well. I was not personally involved.

What we have been tasked to do was in 2012 when the City wanted to go out and seek out the Media and because it is so expensive, by then we understood what costs are to replace the media…I want to make it very clear we were not involved in the design. And the current task, or project of Media Replacement. That’s what it was focused on: what is the best media and at the same time, because the costs were so high, the City really wanted to minimize the cost to get the well back online.

The task was not to review the whole operations or old design, although we were aware that there are some deficiencies. Unfortunately, the City at that dime did not think it would need the well to be a regularly running well: because of the costs as well. These things were discussed..

(34:53) Mayor Espinoza:

The problem is, the council does not get told. We don’t want to, you know, minimize the cost. We’re just give an amount. And that’s what we say “This is what it takes”. The council is not told, “You know what, If we can spend a little bit more, it’ll be a good reliable system that will last a long time.” And sometimes, the Manager does not agree with us. Sometimes, I think that you should come in to the council sometimes so that way we can talk, you know, in Open Session to discuss that. Because we want to make sure that we’re getting the best thing that we have that will last: a system that will last a while. You don’t want to cut cost on a few thing, for something that’s not gonna last.

City Engineer:

Another thing is, what ever has been done. Its not like these upgrades or enhancements, whatever you want to call (them)..this is a supplement to that work that has already been done..because it was kind of considered as a back-up well, the approach at that time, when this was started, was Lets not spend too much money on this well because of the Operational costs on a year, to year, to year. So lets look at the alternatives. That’s another reason why, after the Council’s Approval, there was some time taken to evaluate all of those options, to make sure that, the city is getting, spending the money where it needs to.

(37:01) Mayor Espinoza:

But, one thing I have is, I know that, the Mayor Pro-Temp said there was a cost estimate to use this Automated Variable…Frequency Drive. If that’s what we need, than I think that we need to spend it.

If now, I know that he didn’t like that we’re going to spend a lot …more money. But, if we need to spend it, I think we need to go ahead and spend it and not use a cheap system that’s not gonna be able to be manually. That’s my opinion. OK? I know he’s got his opinion., But if we can just spend it. Spend it. So that it doesn’t take up more staff time.

I know its automatic. It will be working itself automatically instead of more staff time. We’ll spend more hours in the long run with staff using the system as a manual thing. I know. I’ve been a farmer. I know the systems are automatic. In some orchards, when it comes to systems, we have..we do it manually but it takes more of our time to go out there and this system, when its automatic, they run themselves 24/7 and…the clean-out, the wash-out, they perform themselves automatically.

(37:59) City Engineer

And all the systems like for example Well #8, all the new systems are going to be considered with all automated and the evaluations of the Operational Costs, you’re exactly right. That’s what we’re looking into. Unfortunately this is a well that has been down so long ago…It was developer controlled. I didn’t have, personally, control on that.

(38:34) Mayor Espinoza.

But if-I Know that we wanted to go with this Automatic Variable Frequency Drive, and now, because he brought it up that its a lot more expensive, I don’t want us to change, to go to a system that’s more money. I know I’m kinda contradicting him or disagreeing with him. I’d rather to with a system that will be saving us more money in the long run and not to go with something that’s cheap and not gonna make us spend more money.

(39:00) City Engineer

I totally agree with you and that’s what we were trying to do. Maybe Mr. Black can elaborate on, just a comparison of Orifices I mentioned. It’s an alternate that we are evaluating. Its not just to go for a cheaper system, because it is cheap. But we’ll be evaluating that based on the performance. If you want to explain Orifices and how they work: What we’re looking into as an alternate.

(39:32) Jeff Black:

If I understand you correctly, you don’t want to go skimpy and put in something that’s cheap, then come back later and upgrade it. If you want to put in what’s going to work now and rely on that because that’s the position we’re currently in.

Mayor Espinoza:

We prefer a stronger more efficient system than, like you say, a skimpy one that might not last and it might cost us more right now. But we’re paying more because the old system that didn’t perform. Now we’re having to spend maybe more than a half a million dollars.

(40:09) City Manager:

I guess the overall question is: you look at the pros and, well they’re all all pros because you’re trying to treat the water. The issue is: If we went with Orifice Vs. Variable Frequency Drive and you look at the labor and staff has to go, plus the risk, and then what the energy costs are going to be.

For the public to understand what a Variable Frequency Drive is: Its not like ramping the motor of your car all the way up and then slamming the breaks. That’s what you want to prevent with your motors. You want something that doesn’t go all the way down low or very much high. If you guys would wrap yourself around that and see if it makes sense. If we were to save, just on energy costs, or if you look at the labor or we’re gonna save that in 6 months or a year, then it might make sense to go ahead and spend the money to go ahead and put a Variable Frequency Drive now vs (later).

What my biggest concern is, was, just washing out the Media because that’s the most expensive: we’re talking $200,000.

(41:26) Jeff Black 

The Decision to go to a Variable Frequency Drive is not as easy as looking at it and saying Hey, this is the only well in the City without a VFD on it, so let’s put one on it.

The wall wasn’t designed, initially, the treatment system, all the piping and (?) that went with it, weren’t designed with a VFD in mind. So its more than just installing a VFD on a motor.

And that also begs a larger question, looking at the big picture: What do you really want to do with Well 16? If you’re deficient in your overall water demand for your City

Mayor Espinoza: Correct

Jeff Black:

why spend the money to put a drive on there that’s only going to give you, you know, 60% of the Well’s capacity. You don’t have to. You could run it full blast all the time. But what would be the point in turning it down?

Mayor Espinoza:

Well that’s what I’m trying to make sense. Right now, the way we are with the water, we need as much water as we can. Plus Well 16 will be cleaning a lot more. The other sells don’t have the cleaning capacity this one has. This is gonna put out more Clean water than some of the other wells.

(42:90) Jeff Black

Right. So if the overall objective of the city is to get as much water as you can, on the surface it seems like, OK, what’s the point of a VFD. There may be a reason to install a VFD there. From my standpoint, there hasn’t been an analysis done to look to see if its going to be cost effective and beneficial to the City to go with that expense.

(43:04) Mayor Espinoza:

So you say your recommendation, cuz you know, obviously we don’t know, but if that’s the one that spend a little more money It’ll last longer. I think we could probably, what do you guys think about it. You guys have another

Mayor Pro Temp Samra:

I’m not sure who, my problem isn’t, I agree with you that we shouldn’t go cheap and I’ve told staff. My problem is we were supposed to go online with this well last week.

I go there one day to, thinking the well’s gonna be online and I’m told that Public Works Director is on vacation and we have this new idea. We’re not going to do calibration until we do this . To me, the well should have been online already. to come a couple of days before you go online and then come with this idea. Why wasn’t this idea brought forward (a month ago?)

(43:54) Mayor Espinoza

Mayor Pro-Temp but that’s why a review of the system, it they are reviewing the system before it goes online and they see a need, I don’t think there’s an issue. I think you got to look at the system and make sure that things get done the right way: even if you have to spend a little more money before it goes online. Otherwise, not spend more money later on , waste more money.

(44:14) Mayor Pro-Temp Samra

The issue wasn’t about the money. The issue is this could have been, why wasn’t this figured out before.

Mayor Espinoza

They can’t go online because that’s probably why they reviewed it. I know you wanted it on a certain day because the need is out there, but sometimes its better to do it the right way. That’s my opinion.

 (44:29) Mayor Pro-Temp Samra

No-you were also raising concerns this well was not coming online fast enough. And a couple of days before its supposed to go online, everything gets stalled and we put everything on hold because now this idea of Variable Frequency Drive.

I understand Variable Frequency Drive in order to come at certain speeds. But I was told…I was told that if we didn’t put this in, the media is going to last 3 or 4 months. How did that information come out? Now we’re told something different?

Why weren’t these information I was getting just last week, is not consistent with what I was told before. Now its not consistent with what I was told last week.

And my concern was, this is just only one well we’re working on. We’re getting ready to do a big system Changes with a bunch of wells. If you can’t manage one well, how are we expected to manage multiple wells? What confidence do I have that doing multiple wells, we’re not gonna have the same issue: the day before lets do this. I’m trying to figure out why 2 days or 3 days before it goes online, everything gets stopped and now somebody thought of this VFD.

(45:46) Mayor Espinoza

Well, I was in agreement with you. I was expecting it to go online as well. Like I said, in the past there was mistakes made. Now they’re reviewing it and they find something.

I agree with you that sometimes it makes us upset, about the outcome but we have to work together to

(46:04) Mayor Pro-Temp Samra

But the idea behind it was, and this is why OK? I understand with you. I was told if we don’t put the VFD, the Media is going to last 3 to 4 months of the original date. So are they telling me that if we put a VFD in again, that its gonna last twice as long? That was the initial idea of putting in the VFD? Do you see what I’m saying? Why are we getting conflicting information over and over?

(46:30) Mayor Espinoza

Well, they’re right there so we can ask.

 (46:48) Mike (?)

The manufacturer is providing a guarantee that this treatment system will produce 44,000 Bed Volumes, and 44,000 Bed Loads translates to 184 million gallons over the life of the Media, before its predicted to be exhausted.

If we use the well every single day at the design production rate, it’ll last approximately 14 months. Its likely that this well will be in service during the peak months from May to October and 14 months is a minimum.

The concern that the Public Works director had was that the previous Media: there was a concern or suspicion that some of the Media washed out from improper backwashing and he wanted to make sure that the controls are in place that that will not happen.

(48:04)City Engineer

If I may clarify again. The process itself, the procedure to get the well online will not (be) stopped…because this issue was raised. We want to make sure its addressed, discussed, and evaluated. Also we have discussed these enhancements: how do we approach for those and at what time. So its not necessarily completely stopping the process. But because it has come up, we are discussing and evaluating and also discussing the procedures for calibration.

We wanted to make sure that all the potential items in getting the calibration and making everything work all worked out ahead of time. That is the reason there’s a delay a little bit on that.

(49:09) Mayor Espinoza

But do you anticipate that this Frequency Drive will be mostly beneficial if we spent the money? It’ll reduce a lot of risk and energy?

(49:24) City Engineer

Yes. It is an enhancement that we would not recommend against. It is going to help in that, like what you said: automated process and increase in the efficiency. We have not evaluated if we didn’t have the VFD what is the change in the Operational (Costs): We have not done that level. But I agree with you…its an enhancement to the system for sure: and the reliability.

At this point, the Discussion was opened up to the Public for Comments..

One thought on “Some Responses to the Presentation by City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy: Update on Well #16 and Well #8.

  1. Pingback: Watering Days, Fireworks Booths, Arsenic, Sand and 2 “Broken” Wells: plus a City Council Agenda | Thegardeningsnail's Weblog (because not every critter is hiding under a rock...)

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