Well #15 Manganese Enforcement Letter Discussions

From the June 16, 2009 City of Livingston Draft Minutes

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

13. City Council Guidance Regarding California Department of Public Health Enforcement Letter for Failure to Comply with Secondary Drinking Water Standard for Manganese for Well #15.

City Manager Warne presented the agenda item. He stated that some action needs to be taken on this item. There currently are no funds in the Water Enterprise Funds to correct this problem. He hoped that everyone would bear with him while he reads the staff report into the record of the City Council meeting. City Manager Warne stated that it is important for the public as well as the City Council to know that something needs to be done in this area to respond to the letter from the Department of Public Health. See attached letter to minutes of meeting.

RECOMMENDATION:

Provide staff with guidance regarding California Department of Public Health enforcement letter for failure to comply with secondary drinking water standard for manganese for Well #15. Staff needs City Council’s guidance to respond to the California Department of Public Health’s enforcement letter because there are no funds available in the Water Enterprise Fund to either (1) go through the process to apply for a nine-year waiver in accordance with Section 64449.2, Title 22, California Code of Regulations; or (2) install a well-head treatment system for removal of the manganese from the water produced by Well #15. The City Engineer’s preliminary estimate for a treatment system for Well #15 is $1 million.

BACKGROUND:

City staff received a letter, attached hereto, from the California Department of Public Health (“DPH”), dated May 28, 2009, notifying the City that the DPH completed a review of manganese monitoring results conducted by the City for the City’s Well #15 and found that manganese concentrations in Well #15 exceeded the aesthetic, not health related, secondary drinking water standard for manganese. The letter went on to detail the options available to the City, to either apply for a waiver which would allow the City to continue using the well as an active source of water supply, or to install a treatment system for removal of the manganese. The letter concluded by stating that the City had

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until June 19, 2009 to submit a written response to the letter and provide a plan and timeline for addressing the secondary drinking water standard exceedance. Failure to comply with the letter’s directives could result in administrative penalties. The letter states that failure to comply with its directives will result in the issuance of a citation for noncompliance, which could include administrative penalties. The administrative penalty for violation of a secondary drinking water standard is a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each day that the violation continues beyond the date specified for correction in the citation. (Health and Safety Code § 116650, subd. (e)(2).) If the City continues to be in violation, the Department of Health Services may issue an order requiring the installation of purification or treatment works. (Health and Safety Code § 116655.) Continued violation may result in penalties including greater fines. (Health and Safety Code § 116725.) It is in the City’s best interest to respond to the DPH’s letter as request

DISCUSSION:

The City has two options with respect to responding to the DPH’s letter: (1) apply for a nine-year waiver in accordance with Section 64449.2, Title 22, California Code of Regulations; or (2) install a treatment system for removal of the manganese from the water produced by Well #15. The City Engineer’s preliminary estimate for the wellhead treatment manganese is $1 million. To apply for a nine year waiver the City must conduct and submit a study to the Department of Health Services within one year of violating the secondary drinking water standard including the following:

• Water system complaint log and other evidence of customer dissatisfaction, such as a log of calls to the county health department;

• Engineering report evaluating the alternatives and costs for bringing the water system into compliance with the secondary drinking water standard, including the option of sequestering the manganese (treating the manganese such that its aesthetic impact is reduced or eliminated), with a recommendation for the most cost effective and feasible approach by the engineer preparing the report;

• Customer survey distributed to all of the water system’s customers including the following:

o Estimated costs to individual customers of the most cost-effective alternatives presented in the engineering report

o The query: “Are you willing to pay for manganese reduction treatment?”

o The query: “Are you willing to pay for manganese sequestering treatment?”

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o The query: “Do you prefer to avoid the cost of treatment and live with the current water quality situation?”

o The statement: “If you do not respond to this survey, the City of Livingston will assume that you are in support of the reduction treatment recommended by the engineering report.”

• A brief report (agenda, list of attendees, transcript) of a public meeting held by the City to which customers were invited, and at which both the tabulated  results of the customer survey and the engineering report were presented with a  request for input from the public.

At least 50% or more of the billed customers must respond to the survey or else the survey must be conducted again within 3 months. The City must achieve a 50% response rate on the survey to be eligible for the waiver.

If the customer survey indicates that the percentage of billed customers that voted for manganese reduction treatment and manganese sequestering treatment exceeds the percentage of billed customers that voted for avoiding the cost of treatment, the City shall implement the reduction treatment or the sequestering treatment depending on which received a higher percentage of votes.

If a waiver is applied for, 50% or more of the customers respond to the survey as required above, and the majority of customers vote to avoid the cost of treatment and live with the current water quality situation, the waiver stands without issue.

However, if 50% or more of the customers respond, and the majority of the votes are for either a manganese reduction or sequestering treatment, an issue arises as the customers would then be charged by the City for the cost of such treatment as an increase to their water bill. For this increase to be adopted, the City would have to provide notice to the customers of the increase, conduct a public hearing, and not receive written protests from over 50% of the property owners.

There are several problems with this approach. First, we are unsure whether 50% or more of the customers would respond. Second, any rate increase would be subject to Proposition 218.

As stated above, there are two options that the City can take in response to the DPH’s letter. It can choose not to apply for a waiver and simply install the treatment system for the removal of manganese. Alternatively, the City may apply for a waiver, in which case the customers may choose to have a treatment system be installed and bear such costs which, again, would be subject to Proposition 218, or to continue to receive the water that exceeds the secondary drinking water standard for manganese.

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FISCAL IMPACT:

The City Engineer’s preliminary estimate for manganese well-head treatment at Well #15 is approximately $1 million. The costs for applying for completing an engineer’s report and going through the waiver process are unknown at this time.

City Manager Warne commented that he wanted the public to know that higher concentrations of manganese is an aesthetic problem that has to do with odor and color as opposed to a public health issue. The water is drinkable, even with the higher concentrations of manganese.

City Manager Warne apologized for reading the entire staff report into the record, but the City has an issue here, and there is no money in the Water Enterprise Fund to solve this problem. Staff needs City Council guidance as to what they would like them to do. He stated that staff did have a phone conversation with the Department of Public Health today and they indicated that they would allow the City to extend the deadline for a response from June 19, 2009, to July 7, 2009. This means that the City Council has one meeting to decide what it is going to do. If the City Council decides to attempt to get a waiver they will have to have 50% or more of the water customers to actually vote for the waiver. In other words the water customers would have to vote to have higher levels of manganese in the water than the state water drinking standard or you have to do treatment. The preliminary cost of treatment is $1 million. There is no money in the Water Enterprise Fund to do this. So he is getting the word out to the public and letting the Council know about this issue because he knows that water rates are an issue, but the City must simply be able to maintain its water system and it must have sufficient funds to do so.

City Manager Warne commented that one of the questions that the state regulators asked was what are the current water rates? We told them they are $9.90 for 35,000 gallons. Their comment was that this low rate was absolutely ridiculous. That is the comment from the state, so no action needs to be taken tonight, but it will be on the City Council agenda for July 7. A decision needs to be made by the City Council to (1) ask the voters to vote for high levels of manganese in the water or (2) move forward with a plan and treatment options. That is the end of my report, he said.

Council Member Nateras said the Council was presented with this in closed session. She said so this is what we are dealing with and it is not an easy decision. City Manager Warne stated the letter from the Department of Health Services was sent on May 28. The City Council has been aware of this issue for a couple of weeks, but the item is being put on the public agenda so the City Council and the public is aware of it. He said that there is no money in the Water Enterprise Fund to do well-head treatment or go through the process to get a waiver.

Mike Torres asked how the City was going to get 50 percent participation in a waiver vote.

City Manager Warne explained it depends on if the Council wants to go in that direction. If the City Council chooses to go in that direction we would have to sit down with the state and discuss with them how they want that vote to be taken. However, if you have less than 50% of the water users participating in the vote, then the City cannot have a waiver and it must automatically go to treatment. Page 18 of 25

Mr. Torres asked if the well was in use right now.

Mr. Warne replied yes.

Mr. Torres asked why the City can’t take the well out of service.

Kathryn Reyes explained that the City currently has 8 wells that have active permits from the state. The only well we have off line right now is well #16, which has an arsenic removal system. She said it is very expensive to operate Well #16. Each well pumps about 1,000 gallons a minute. Well #15 is located on Drive Joseph Gallo near Starbucks.

Mr. Torres suggested that the City shut down Well #15 until it is fixed. He commented that the deadline is pretty close and he knows the City would lose water pressure. He asked what the affect would be to shut down the well.

Ms. Reyes explained that if the City takes Well #15 offline, the pressure across the City will be reduced. By state law, the City is required to provide 20 pounds of pressure–and anyone who has had 20 pounds of pressure knows it is not adequate. Second, she said the City provides water to Foster Farms and they need a certain amount of pressure to operate their plant. So we have to have every well on to provide and meet the demands of the City. If we turn Well #15 off we would not be able to provide enough water to keep everyone satisfied with the water pressure. Ms. Reyes said we could turn on Well #16, but it is more expensive to operate. We are going to be rapidly using our arsenic absorbent media, increasing operating costs. Also Well #16 has higher laboratory sampling costs because the City has to make sure it is removing the arsenic. The well must be sampled daily and then sampled by a certified laboratory weekly. Bacteria samples must be taken before and after the filters. This is in addition to all general laboratory sampling that is required for all wells.

Mr. Torres asked how long before they found out if Well #15 was bad? Ms. Reyes commented that normally the City samples for manganese once every three years by state regulation. If it has normal levels of manganese, then one sample every three years is sufficient. She stated that in April of last year the City exceeded the maximum contaminated level for manganese for the first time. The City was then required to sample the well every quarter for the next four quarters. The results are averaged out by the state. When the one-year average exceeded the state maximum contaminate level, the Department of Public Health sent the City the letter in May. She said the Department of Health Services wants to make sure you don’t have a testing fluke. It was consistently high for a year.

Mr. Torres commented that the City has other wells. He knows the City is low on money. He said if the City knew it was going to be so high, the City should have done something earlier. It is too late now. He hoped we learned a lesson.

Mayor Varela stated that this is something that he talked about a couple of weeks ago. The state is going to put out mandates, and the City is going to have to act because the City has no choice. The City needs to raise its rates to take care of these issues. Just like the gentleman from the state said, our rates are unbelievably low. We could take care of these issues if our water rates were high enough. It is a work in progress. As Ms. Reyes has stated, we take these samples and now the samples say that the City must do something about this problem. Page 19 of 25

City Manager Warne said the state did tell him that if the City Council could not act on July 7, they will issue a compliance order. He recommended that the City Council act to provide appropriated funds.

Council Member Nateras told Mr. Torres she wanted to thank him as his questions were very good. She added that if anyone has any suggestions, the City Council would consider their ideas.

The agenda item was continued to the regular meeting of July 7, 2009.

From the July 07, 2009 City of Livingston Draft Minutes

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

15.  City Council Guidance Regarding California Department of Public Health Enforcement Letter for Failure to Comply with Secondary Drinking Water Standard for Manganese for Well #15.

City Manager Warne said that this issue has been before the City Council previously.  The City Council needs to decide if it would like to seek a waiver for manganese or proceed with engineering to do well-head filtering.  Staff recommends that the City move forward with well-head filtering treatment for manganese in Well #15, inform the State of its decision, and authorize the City Engineer to begin to work with the State to determine the most appropriate treatment process.

Mayor Pro Tem Vierra asked how long the State will allow Livingston to get the money for treatment.  City Manager Warne said the State is going to work with Livingston, as long as the City has a plan and is moving forward to solve the problem.

     Council Member Espinoza said that the City Engineer suggested that it would cost $1 million to do well-head filtering.  He asked if the City got any other bids.  City Manager Warne said that the City will bid the project when it comes time to do the engineering and the construction.  The City Engineer’s estimate of $1 million is a ballpark estimate.

     Council Member Espinoza said he favors filtering the water as long as it costs less.  City Manager Warne stated that the City will work to find the most cost-effective method of well-head treatment.

     Katherine Schell Rodriguez commented that an engineering friend on twitter told her that the approximate cost for the well-head filter would be about $1 million.

Motion:  M/S Vierra/Nateras to move forward with well-head filtering treatment for manganese in Well #15, inform the State of the City’s decision, and authorize the City Engineer to begin to work with the State to determine the most appropriate treatment process. 

The motion carried 4-1, with Council Member Espinoza voting no.

 

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