The Cambrian

Millions of gallons lost in Cambria CSD water system

The holding pond on CCSD property off San Simeon Creek Road is seen in mid-May.
The holding pond on CCSD property off San Simeon Creek Road is seen in mid-May.

Cambria’s water system has lost “millions of gallons” of water, and service district staffers are scrambling to identify the problem.

General Manager Jerry Gruber told the Cambria Community Services District board at its monthly meeting Thursday, May 25, that “we have a major leak somewhere.”

“What I instructed staff to do yesterday is to start comparing what we’re pumping, what we’re producing versus what what’s going to the Wastewater Treatment Plant,” he said.

The discrepancy was significant. Gruber said at the meeting that only 400,000 gallons was reaching the plant, compared to twice that amount being pumped.

He said readings taken during the first part of May found a discrepancy of “millions of gallons” of water.

At the meeting, Gruber told directors he believed the district was dealing with a major leak in an area behind Centrally Grown, north of Cambria off Highway 1. But Tuesday, May 30, he said no leak had been found there.

So where is the water going?

Gruber estimated that 10 percent of the water was being lost to irrigation. He also said at the meeting that the district had identified and repaired three “relatively small leaks.”

But, he added: “Although they do contribute to the overall picture of unaccounted-for water, they do not represent the problem that we’re experiencing right now.”

We have a major leak somewhere.

Jerry Gruber, CCSD general manager

In an email, the general manager shared some analysis comparing production to effluent flows that leave the Wastewater Treatment Plant for May 24 and 25.

He said total water production for May 24 was 749,000 gallons compared with an effluent flow from the wastewater plant of 459,000 — a difference of 290,000 gallons. Even accounting for 10 percent loss to irrigation, it would still leave 215,000 gallons unaccounted for in a 24-hour period.

For May 25, the gap was somewhat narrower: 127,000 gallons between production (584,000) and effluent (457,000). Minus the 10 percent loss for irrigation, that would leave a gap of 68,000 gallons.

Gruber said in another email Tuesday that district engineer Bob Gresens estimates the loss of water to irrigation at closer to 20 percent, which would narrow the gap further.

On the issue of the leaks, board President Amanda Rice said Monday that one behind the Shell Station on Main Street — which has been repaired — “was pretty substantial” and added that some 60,000 gallons of water had been used in fire training in the Leimert neighborhood.

Most of the water that has been lost, she said, has been in the distribution system rather than the collection system.

Rice said the leaks aren’t surprising in light of the wet winter.

“The ground shrinks and expands at a different rate than the pipes,” she said. “It’s actually a common problem when the ground dries out after it’s been super wet.”

Rice said district staffers have been working “as close to nonstop as they can” to find the leaks, “but really, we’re relying on the community. ... We’re hoping that everyone around town that notices anything can call the district.”

Other water issues

In other water-related issues, Gruber said the supplemental environmental impact report for the Sustainable Water Facilty would be circulated to public agencies by Wednesday, May 31. After that, he said, the agencies would have 10 days to review the document.

A special board meeting would be scheduled for June 15 to certify the SEIR.

Gruber also said the district had purchased 25 new manhole covers to ensure that no floodwater gets into the collection system.

During the wet winter, he said, there were “a lot of manholes that were absolutely submerged, and what that did was create a lot of flow to the Wastewater Treatment Plant.”

Gruber said no permit violation occurred and there was no sewer overflow during the heavy rains. Nonetheless, he said the purchase of the waterproof manhole covers was important and that more would be needed: “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

As of May 25, Gruber said, water at the district’s holding pond on San Simeon Creek Road was 6.7 inches above the permitted level but was falling: “We’re getting good results from evaporation,” he said.

When asked by Director Harry Farmer whether the district continued to be in violation of Regional Water Quality Control Board standards for the pond, Gruber said, “We’re out of compliance due to things beyond our control,” citing this year’s heavy rains.