Rancho tract water tower

The Upper Rancho Reservoir water tower, now repaired, burst on July 31, spilling 250,000 gallons of water. California City failed to issue a boil water notice to residents.

CALIFORNIA CITY - An July 31 blown pipe in the Rancho tract on Wilson Road and Hacienda Boulevard resulted in the loss of 250,000 gallons from a water tower, according to California City Public Works Department.

On top of the blowout, the city failed to issue a boil water notice to residents of the tract that the water tower serviced, per California state guidelines.

“One of our eight-inch mains busted on site,” said Public Works Director Jose Barragan on Aug. 7. “The life expectancy of our steel pipes in the city has expired, so it seems at least on a weekly basis we have a blowout here and there.”

Barragan said the repair crew had to repair it “live” overnight as they were unable to shut down the flow of water. 

“Unfortunately, we don’t know where some of the valves are on our system,” Barragan said. “Up there on the hill, you get blown sand, erosion from rain and things like that end up covering a lot of our valve boxes.”

Others, he said, are so old or worn “that they seize up.” 

“We tried to shut down the leak as best we could,” Barragan said. “We ended up working live and repairing it all night, but we got it repaired that night.” 

Barragan acknowledged some procedural mistakes were made, chiefly not issuing a boil water notice. State water guidelines require all water utilities to issue a boil water notice following a line break while they test the affected water supply for bacteriological testing.

The process can take up to three days, depending on the lab.

Barragan said that samples were taken on Aug. 3 and sent out for testing, but came back negative. 

The public works crew then opened up a number of fire hydrants and flushed the lined until 6:30  a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1 “to make sure the lines were clean and wouldn’t pose any danger to the residents up there.”

He added since the line broke and was repaired he has initiated a standard operating procedure “for anybody on standby to know what they do when they get up there.”

“If this happens again, I’ll make sure to shut off the valve so we don’t drain the tank and we work diligently to get the leak closed off,” Barragan said, adding if pressure drops below safety regulations, boil water notices will be sent out.

Barragan said he submitted a staff report to the California City city council in 2019 requesting a  geographic information system (or GIS) map of the city’s valves to better.

“Here, if a GIS mapping system were to be approved, we would know how to back up a valve and know where the valves are,” Barragan said. “We would have either exercised valves or realized how difficult they were to exercise and set up a schedule to replace them.” 

He added it’s important to have the tools necessary to address problems in the city’s water infrastructure “when it breaks.”

“It is going to break,” Barragan said. “Our system is failing, is in the process of failing. We work the best we can to get things fixed.”

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