Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Lucerne receives boil water notice, informed of high contaminant levels

LUCERNE – Lucerne customers of California Water Service got a double whammy this week.


On Thursday they received notices in the mail that the water they had been consuming since July of 2006 exceeded maximum contaminant levels of total trihalomethanes. {sidebar id=11}


Long-time use – defined as drinking two liters a day for 70 years – may increase the risk of getting cancer and may cause liver, kidney or central nervous system problems.


On Friday, Cal Water employees hand-delivered boil water notices throughout Lucerne, stating "this precaution is necessary due to exceeding legal levels for turbidity from recent rains."


Representatives of Lucerne's two water groups, Lucerne Community Water Organization and LucerneFLOW, could not be reached for comment on the town's water situation Friday.


John Graham, the company's water quality project manager, said the boil water notice is expected to be in effect through the weekend.


He explained the scanty recent rain was not the real problem, and the two notices are related. Current lake conditions of increased organic matter which could be pathogens require disinfecting the water before distribution, which increases the trihalomethane level.


Both Graham and Bruce Burton, director of the Drinking Water Field Operations Branch of the California Health Services department in Santa Rosa, explained the risky trihalomethanes form when organics in the lake combine with chlorine.


"Over the last couple of weeks we have been experiencing quality problems," Graham said. "Last year's mild winter gave us a respite from typical water quality issues. But in the last two weeks we've seen a change, a musty odor and things growing."


Graham said the lake's pH measurement, which indicates its ability to absorb acid, has been changing rapidly, "sometimes every 15 or 20 minutes."


He added he is sure other systems which rely on Clear Lake's water are also "being challenged by it," but Cal Water's situation is different because its plant is "at the end of its life cycle."


Burton said the turbidity is a measure of particulate matter in the water. He said an engineer in his office had contacted other water systems around the lake and "all are meeting standards. Seasonal changes in lake water are creating challenges, and systems have found water more difficult to treat. For instance, they are having to backwash more often. Clear Lake water is not easy to treat, because of seasonal changes."


The new Cal Water Lucerne plant, which is under construction on Highway 20, should be in operation by this time next year, Graham said. It will use a membrane and ultra-violet system, which minimizes the need to add chlorine.


Burton said his office was notified at 4 a.m. Friday that the Cal Water plant had problems, and directed the boil water notice.


Graham said the turbid water was released at about 9 a.m. and would not reach the furthest part of the system before about 11:30 a.m.


The company brought in four employees from its Oroville and Chico offices to distribute the boil water notices, said Graham.


The boil water notice deliveries continued all afternoon. Central Lucerne residents received notices between 3 and 4 p.m.


A moratorium on new hookups to the Lucerne water system has been in effect since July 2007, when Burton's office recommended it to the California Public Utilities Commission.


E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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