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CLWA's mammoth water tank covers need replacing

Replacing covers on two 15-million gallon tanks estimated to cost $13.75 million

Posted: July 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Castaic Lake Water Agency Engineering and Operations Manager Brian Folsom checks a pump hose used for removing water from the top of a 20-year-old Hypalon floating cover that has leaked up through cracks on one of the 15 million-gallon clear wells at the CLWA in Saugus on Thursday. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

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Local water officials are having a tough time finding ways to replace two 15-million-gallon water tank covers crucial to ensuring drinking water quality in the Santa Clarita Valley as the drought deepens and revenue slows.

On the one hand, Castaic Lake Water Agency board members heard during a recent meeting, time has run out for replacing the costly covers for the mammoth tanks.

On the other hand, the $13.75 million needed to replace the covers would likely have to come out of money set aside for developing more water recycling in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The dilemma was presented during a June meeting at which directors for Santa Clarita Valley’s water wholesaler mulled over priorities for capital works projects with their eye on delivering local ratepayers safe, affordable drinking water over the next decade.

The board was split, however, on whether to spend agency money replacing the covers for the two tanks that are key to ensuring water quality or spend less money repairing them and, at the same time, invest in the agency’s recycled water program.

The agency’s top engineer wants to replace the existing floating Hypalon covers on its two “clearwells” that store treated water at Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant.

The covers were built in 1993 and were expected to last 20 years, according to Brian Folsom, the agency’s engineering and operations manager. The mammoth tanks are critical because they serve as a buffer to accommodate fluctuating water demands while maintaining a relatively constant flow of water through the treatment plant.

Each of the squarish structures is about 330 feet by 330 feet, stands about 24 feet tall and is built of concrete with sloping sides and flat floors. Each clearwell holds about 15 million gallons of water.

Over the last 10 years, engineers who have noticed tears and pinholes in the covers, and have been patching and repairing them.

Folsom told board members on June 25 that the covers could no longer be repaired and have to be replaced.
“The existing covers are at the end of their useful life of 20 years,” he said. “Annual maintenance costs of the existing covers is increasing and the risk of failure is increasing. The covers are needed to protect the treated water prior to delivery to the agency’s customers.”

Agency board members discussed the pros and cons of using “re-purposed” grant money intended for developing the agency’s much-needed recycling program to pay, instead, for the replacement of the tank covers.

“I know everybody in the last couple of years has talked about the recycling program,” said board Vice President Bill Cooper. “When we did that we didn’t expect our funding to be where it is now three or four years later with the downtown in the economy.

“We had to re-purpose some of those things,” he said. “And we were re-purposing that funding because we weren’t able to build the recycling we wanted.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t apply for more grants,” he said. “Recycling needs to move forward.”

“If it comes down to either water quality or water demand, I would choose water quality,” said board member Dean Efstathiou. “Because if you don’t, they could shut you down,” he said, referring to public health inspectors monitoring the quality of drinking water.

In the end, directors agreed they need more discussion, more information and more time to debate the agency’s priorities.

“You’ve convinced me on the importance to move ahead on the clearwell covers,” said member Jerry Gladbach, adding the agency should be more aggressive in competing for federal grant money.

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
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