Supervisor gives update on city wells

Water and sewer supervisor Kyle Wirts gave an update to the California Democrat regarding the city’s plans for a new well.

California issued a water emergency during in late March after it was reported Well Number 7 began pumping out rust due to a collapsed steel casing.

In a previous Democrat article, “The city issued the water emergency to signal assistance from state aid agencies such as the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency,” the article read. “The pump is attached to Cargill’s plant in California, one of the city’s biggest employers. Although workers diverted water from a separate pump to the business, the city wants to get the demand well fixed so everything can remain operational. There is no danger regarding usage of city water stemming from the damaged well.”

The city plans to drill a new well close to the original location of Well Number 7. Wirts told the Democrat the city applied for emergency funding through the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The total cost of the project is $1.9 million and California has applied for $1.5 million worth of funding. Although the city has approval for the drill site from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, officials are still waiting to hear back on funds.

“Once we get the ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on our funding, then we’ll start the process of getting our emergency well driller in here and start getting holes in the ground to try to get things going,” Wirts said. “It’s not going to be a fast process, because it’ll probably take six weeks to drill a deep because we’re wanting to put in a 16-inch hole … a casing size of 16 inches, which is bigger than anything I’ve got. And to get the kind of water that we’re after, we’re probably going to be around that 1,400-foot deep area. When we drilled the last new well about 10 years ago, we had to go 1,400 feet, and we got 1,400 gallons a minute.”

Multiple entities worked together to make sure the grant is, including the city attorney, city clerk’s office and the water and sewer department. Wirts said he feels good about receiving the funding for the project. He added the city’s grant writer, Lincoln Brown, of the Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission, feels confident in it as well. However, the city does have a backup plan if California doesn’t receive the grant.

“If we don’t get the funding, we’ll probably change the program a little bit on some of the things that we were going to do, some of the amenities. Use some of the stuff that can be reused with rehab, but we’re still planning on punching a new hole,” Wirts said. “It’s going in the same location. Basically, (the same location) as the old Well Number 7, which is out by the jacket factory. We have to have a few setback requirements that you have to do for DNR. We’ve got to move it about 100 feet from where our previous so-to-speak hole in the ground is. But they’ve approved that site. We’ve had site visits with them and our engineer on the project. And we’ve got everything on our end pretty well ready to go.”

Wirts said the city does have Well Number 7 pumping water at a very reduced rate. The well once ran 1,100 gallons a minute before California began pulling up the debris. The well is currently pumping 400 gallons with a turbidity meter, which measures the parts per million of debris in the water. If the meter senses over five parts per million, it shuts the well down immediately. He said since the city installed the meter it’s been running its normal 10-hour cycle.

Well Number 6, a separate well diverted to the Cargill facility for operations, is also facing some issues.

“We were really pumping Well Number 6, very hard, for an extended period of time, and the yield was going way down on that. So we called our well people, we were going to try to lower our pump and we couldn’t get it lowered,” Wirts said. “Well Number 6, when it was drilled back in the ’60s – it’s what we call a ‘crooked shaft well.’ And at one time, before my time, there was a pump that was lost in that well and they brought an old pounding rig in and they pounded it to the bottom. So we set up on it to try to drop it 100 feet to get it deeper into the water, and it wouldn’t go. So it’s as deep as it can go. So we reduced the rate on that from 550 minute to about 300 on that one, But that has allowed us to keep everything status quo. I don’t have any extra, I don’t have any room for error and if we were to drop a’s going to be a ‘I gotta get somebody here to get it pulled and get a pump in it’ type of a deal.”

The city has assistance from various entities if an additional well were to go down. According to Wirts, California has a good relationship with Flynn Drilling from Troy. He explained that if a well goes down, they can assist in fixing the issue fairly quickly. The city is also still in contact with Water District Number 2. He said California and District Number 2 still share an interconnect from years ago. If a well were to drop, the city could buy water from it. Although it would not be a supply for the local water system, it would act as a boost if necessary.

While the city’s water department do have a plan for water rationing, it is only if there is a need for it. Wirts emphasized the city does not need to worry about water rationing at this time.

“I don’t want anybody to think that we’re telling them not to water their beautiful yards,” Wirts said.

He said city workers are spending a lot of their time at California’s well houses as they manage the issue.

“We’re doing drawdowns on a weekly basis to make sure that our water levels aren’t dropping, we’re (not) exposing our pumps to undue stress or anything like that,” Wirts said.

He added California’s utility crews are diligent when handling water-related situations. Wirts told the Democrat when the city was dealing with recent water leaks, crews were prompt in responding.

“We’ve got a good bunch of employees out here. I can call and get a crew together pretty quick,” Wirts said. “It’s heightened our awareness of things like that. So I’m comfortable right now. Nervous, but we’re okay right now.”

He specified everything in the water system is mechanical and compared operating it to driving a vehicle. Breakdowns can happen unexpectedly when driving a vehicle, and the same thing can occur with a water system when in use. That’s why the city of California is trying its best to stay prepared for any event.

“I’ve been in been in close contact with DNR, who is aware of our situation. People need to put their trust in their water operator. My main goal is … I’ve got 4,500 people in this town, or closer to 5,000, and I want to be sure they got drinking water,” Wirts said. “You can’t go very long without water. But we still are supplying our needs and our demands, and hopefully we keep that until we hear what we’re going to do on our new well.”

“If people have concerns, my office door is always open. I don’t want people to worry. That’s my job, to worry,” Wirts said. “…We’re still getting good-quality water. (There’s not) anything wrong with our water, we probably have some of the best water in the state. That’s what I tell everybody. If you want good water, come to California and drink it. We pride ourselves on our job. We’ve got a good group. From the council and mayor on down, we’re all on the same team here. They listen to my needs and my wants, and I feel like we’re in a good spot. We’re in as good of a spot as we can be in for the situation we’re in.”

Originally Appeared Here

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