Trying to stop the leaking

ktanner@thetribunenews.comApril 10, 2014 

Justin Smith, right, Cambria Community Services District water department supervisor, explains a control panel of a new telemetry system at the district yard on Rodeo Grounds Road to district board President Jim Bahringer, at left, who accompanied press representatives on a tour Thursday, April 3.


Sending automatic communications through the air rather than over land should prevent spills like those that sent 275,000 gallons of water down the drain in recent months, Cambria Community Services District hopes.

The water spilled from two district-owned storage tanks in the Top of the World neighborhood of Lodge Hill, one on the Fiscalini Ranch on Oct. 18 and the other on Stuart Street March 24.

The new devices replace an old system that sent alarms through in-the-ground AT&T lines and tracked data with pen-and-paper diagrams and charts that looked like Spirograph doodles. 

The shift to new equipment was underway when the spills occurred, according to Justin Smith, water department supervisor.

Most of the replacements — elements of which were installed at water storage tanks on Stuart Street, Pine Knolls, the main Santa Rosa Creek water supply well near Coast Union High School, and at the Rodeo Grounds service area — were completed by the end of March. Some repairs were also done to equipment at the tank on the Fiscalini Ranch.

The new computerized system, the nerve center of which is housed in a metal shed in the Rodeo Grounds service area, includes cutting-edge communications and alarm circuitry designed to send reliable notices when tank pumps and other equipment aren’t working as they should. 

Repairs to the old system were needed much more frequently, “and we couldn’t get parts for it,” Smith said, “so we were having to have someone rebuild the circuit boards.” Also, “the old system had no fail safe. So it made more sense to upgrade to the new standard.”

Smith said the newly installed system is designed to immediately detect any leaks or problems and instantly report to the water-department technician on call. 

Complete expenses for the project still are being compiled. 

According to the draft mid-year budget adjustment presented to the board in February, such expenses as an $9,807 Stuart Street/Fiscalini radio link, a $6,167 upgrade to the alarm system and $11,030 radio infrastructure for the new system were not included in the district’s original budget calculations for the fiscal year 2013-2014. 

However, $26,000 for rehabilitating the Fiscalini tank was included in the budget for this fiscal year; as of Jan. 31, according to the mid-year report, no money had been spent on that line item.

Smith said he hopes to add a master system that would tie everything together. The new controllers are set up for such a system, which would be built specially for the district.

Follow Kathe Tanner on Twitter at @CambriaReporter.

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