The Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District governing board Thursday night seated two new members very familiar with the water woes that have swirled through the two mountain hamlets for years.
Sam Schwalm, a former spokesperson for the watchdog group Water for Pine-Strawberry, and local real estate developer Ray Pugel, the man who helped develop the Milk Ranch Well, assumed their positions on the board at a meeting held in the Pine Cultural Hall.
Schwalm replaces Don Smith whose term expired at the end of 2012. Pugel takes the seat of Mike Greer, the district’s former treasurer who resigned after admitting to misusing a Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) credit card.
Moments after joining the board, members elected Pugel the new chair, replacing Gary Lovetro who will stay on the board as vice-chair.
Also at the meeting, Ron Calderon was elected treasurer and Ron Dickerson, secretary.
Among the biggest challenges the board faces is solving a turbid water problem apparently caused by water pumped out of the Milk Ranch Well I and into the PSWID system.
Since last summer, when almost the entire water system in P-S was shut down due to turbidity, residents have complained about the water, saying it is unfit for human consumption.
Some even complained they would not bathe or wash their clothes with it, calling it third world-quality water.
At Thursday’s meeting, PSWID’s district manager outlined three options to deal with the issue.
Option one- An automatic well shut off that would stop the flow of Milk Ranch Well I water into the system. An automatic well shut off is estimated to cost $11,639 per well, but is saddled with concern because shutting down well motors during turbid events has shown to lockup pumps with sand. When that occurs, the pumps have to be removed and cleaned, which can be a costly, time consuming process.
Option two - Diverting turbid water into a flush pond and Pine Creek. Diverting water to Pine Creek would cost an estimated $23,539 for each of the three well sites.
Option three – A filtration system, which ranges in price from $28,200 to $50,000, depending on which system is selected.