Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District Chairman Ray Pugel refutes rumors circulating in the two tiny mountain hamlets that the water delivery system is only limping along.
In particular, he denies the buzz that only one of the town’s three deep wells — Milk Ranch 1 — is producing water and that it’s yielding far less than 80 gallons per minute (gpm).
Pugel says MR 1 is being pumped at 45 gpm by design, “Our field staff made that choice and regularly does to decrease production when the storage tanks are full.”
Water tanks in the Pine service area are full to overflowing, says Pugel, who also contends two other deep wells, Strawberry Hollow No. 3 and Milk Ranch 2, are also producing water.
Strawberry Hollow was shut down months ago when bacteriological tests proved positive for Total Coliform and E. Coli.
The well, including casing, column pipe, pump and motor, was hyper-chlorinated at least two times, Pugel says. On June 6, a set of water samples had no trace of Coliform and E. Coli.
However, the well will not begin pumping water into storage tanks until a set of samples taken June 20 confirm the absence of all bacteria.
PSWID officials received ADEQ approval on May 24 to use MR 2 and it is now being pumped at 50 gpm.
“CH2M Hill staff installed a 50 gpm valve to limit its production to that amount,” Pugel said.
Some water users nonetheless worry about the lack of a filter on MR 2 for fear of another turbidity calamity like the one that last summer left a third of the district without water.
The outages and turbidity prompted the district to issue health warnings and appeal to all its customers to reduce usage. Some beleaguered customers were without water for three days.
In addressing the rumors, Pugel agreed the 300,000-gallon water tank has significant structural damage, which the board discussed at a May 18 public budget meeting.
The board chairman blames the damage and leaks on “decades worth of neglect by the previous water system owners.”
The board put repair money for that tank in the FY 2014 budget, but not for other damaged storage tanks. The failure of the 300,000-gallon tank would create huge problems in maintaining water pressure in the whole system and in the ability to pump water to Strawberry.