Resolution of Water Company Well Issues over July 4th Weekend

The morning of Saturday, July 3rd our lead well, Well #1, suffered a partial failure causing a reduction in its capacity that resulted in Well #3 kicking in to satisfy demand. Well #3 is currently over the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for uranium, and while it hasn’t been cited by the State, the Board of Directors gave direction at the beginning of this year to our Water Company Manager to minimize the use of Well #3 out of an abundance of concern for health and safety.

The basic synopsis is that due to the reduced capacity of Well #1 Saturday morning (approximately ~400 gpm versus 1000 gpm) Well #3 kicked in until it was manually turned off after the wells were checked that morning by Staff. It is estimated that Well #3 pumped approximately 350 gallons per minute (gpm) for 3 hours.

The “on” pressure for Well #3 was set at 44 psi (versus our usual operating pressure of 52+ psi) to ensure Well #3 was in a lag lag position behind Well #1 and the Lukins Brothers Water Company (LBWC) inter-tie. It was assumed that the inter-tie was set to come on at 50 psi.

What went wrong on Saturday was that the LBWC inter-tie was actually set to come on at 45 psi (only 1 psi above Well #3). So when Well #1 started to fail, Well #3 kicked in rather than the LBWC inter-tie. The misconfiguration of the inter-tie came to light later that afternoon after discussions with LBWC and after their engineer physically checked the setting.

The other issue was that Well #3 had no “off” pressure switch as it was removed during the installation of the uranium treatment, so when it came on it kept pumping regardless along with Well #1 until manually turned off.

As of that Saturday afternoon, the LBWC inter-tie was reconfigured correctly at 50 psi, Well #3 was reduced to 40 psi and STPUD inter-tie was opened (as an emergency backup, given Well #1 was compromised). Since then, Well #3 has not been used and the LBWC inter-tie has been used intermittently (on Sunday Well #1 was magically back up to pumping 750 gpm).

The issue with Well #1 was that the gearbox had started to fail. Our staff had noted that the noise level of the gearbox had been increasing over time and we had decided to try and replace it with the new gearbox we had on hand as a backup. Unfortunately, this partial failure happened before we could get this done.

On July 15th we were able to take Well #1 offline for the day to replace the gearbox. During this time the LBWC inter-tie was able to supply enough water that we didn’t need to use Well #3.

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    1. John, yes, that’s one of the options that the long-term facilities plan has been looking into, it’ll be part of the recommendation for the Board to consider…along with many other options that might be feasible.

  1. Excellent update Keiron. It was the first test of all these these cut-overs and fail safes. Given the potential for multiple points of failure, it was lucky it was only for three hours the issues have been corrected. I received an email today about four new wells being drilled in two locations? Is this related to new wells for a long term solution? I can’t find anything on our TK website. Also, any update on when we may be able to turn on the closed wells and begin irrigation?

    1. Stu, I believe the sentry wells are part of a study by Lahontan to determine the extent and migration of the PCE plume, not related to us per se. We will be discussing the resumption of irrigation during tonight’s Board meeting.

  2. Thanks for the update. Looks like everything that should be working is working (gearbos and tie-ins) and the tie-ins are functioning as expected. When can we resume irrigation?

    1. Mike, this was discussed during the Board meeting last night and we’ll be starting to notify homeowners today of the decisions.

      We are still pending approvals from the State to be able to operate Wells #2 & #3 with the uranium treatment. We are trying to expedite this process or secure an interim approval, but it’s hard to pin down a date at this point. We need at least Well #3 to be available with treatment to be able to both ensure safe drinking water and resume irrigation.

      That said, the Board approved the interim measure to allow non-turf irrigation to recommence on July 26th based on an overnight watering schedule that will be published shortly (and was in the Board packet). Basically each street in the Keys is allocated a two hour irrigation window overnight, three days a week. Non-turf means drip irrigation and other low volume landscape irrigation (plants, bushes, trees, etc).

      Once Well #3 is permitted then homeowners will be allowed to recommence turf irrigation as well based on the same overnight schedule.

        1. Mike, apologies, I’ve been waiting for good news, but at this time we still don’t have any…though we seem to be close.

          We are awaiting approval from the State, seems like we have jumped through all the hoops and just waiting for the final stamp. Unfortunately the wildfires have impacted this last step. Likewise, we are close to completing the SCADA work, which is critical to being able to actually operate the treatment, but it has been delayed due to the wildfires.

          Fingers crossed that everything comes together over next couple of weeks, though I’d have to say we have lost much of the opportunity to irrigate lawns this year (we’ll certainly need all of this for next summer and several summers thereafter of course).