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Sonoma County Gazette
Camp Meeker Beat by Tom Austin

Camp Meeker Beat

Jul 30, 2017
by Tom Austin


The dog days. That’s where we are. Get your dog and spend the day at the beach. That’s my kind of dog day. This month’s column is chock full of Camp Meekery goodness. Thanks to the hard work of Board member Tony Tominia, Camp Meeker will receive funding to completely remove all invasive species from the beach parcel. That would be primarily English Ivy and Blackberry bushes, which any Camp Meeker resident could guess in three guesses and the first two don’t count. This removal will take place over several years. Again, as any Camp Meeker resident could tell you, removing those two plants from a piece of property is a case of nineteen steps forward, eighteen steps back. Ivy and blackberry are worthy adversaries.

Second bit of news: We have an election for member of the Park and Rec Board on November 7 this year. It’s a little bit like the Senate, where only some of the members are up for election in any given year. This year, board members Gary Helfrich, Anthony Tominia, and Val Larson are up for election. I’m sure we will visit that subject in future columns as the election gets closer.

Remember last month when I talked in vague and general terms about the boil-water incident? I’ve got the skinny. Jamie Dunton of Russian River Utility gave me a very good tutorial on the layout of the Camp Meeker water system. A quick thumbnail: Camp Meeker pulls water from two wells we own in Monte Rio (which fill with water from the Russian River aquifer). From there it is pumped uphill through an underground water main along Bohemian Highway to a booster pump on the Alliance Redwoods property. From there it is pumped uphill to the water tanks on Tower Road, Mizpah Street, and Morelli Lane. It is also pumped further uphill to the booster pump at the Union Grove, just outside Occidental. From there it fills up Occidental’s 250,000-gallon storage tank. (The Camp Meeker tanks are about 100,000 each).

So what broke? Well, the booster pump in Alliance Redwoods sits on a concrete slab, and under that slab is a length of PVC pipe. The water in that pipe is at a fairly high pressure – 150 pounds per square inch (psi), or about ten times atmospheric pressure – and this pressure eventually caused a weak point to fail in the PVC, leading to a split in the pipe, and water coming out of the pipe at 150 psi into the surrounding earth. Also coming out of the pipe was the energy (in the form of water pressure) necessary to get uphill to the Camp Meeker storage tanks. This was also the source of the boil-water notices, because the rules say that when a pipe loses pressure through a leak it becomes possible for contaminants (in this case, dirt) to get into the pipe. It’s still pretty unlikely because the earth doesn’t generally push in on the pipe as hard as the water is pushing out.

Some Camp Meeker residents lost some or all of their water pressure as a result, but the problem was of short duration thanks to quick thinking by Russian River Utility (RRU) and that quarter million gallons sitting uphill of us in Occidental. RRU turned some valves and the water came back downhill, bypassing the Union Grove booster pump through, wait for it, a bypass pipe, and our tanks were full again.

After everything was repaired and clean, pure drinking water was once again flowing out of our taps, RRU made some recommendations to prevent future occurrences. These recommendations involve moving the pipe in question above ground (for easier access) and replacing the PVC with ductile iron (for durability). This comes with a price tag and some other issues, it’s not a done deal yet. There will be discussion.

I admit I’m a bit of a nerd about this stuff. As a Mechanical Engineer myself, I can appreciate buffer tanks and booster pumps and PVC and psi. I also have to hand it to the Civil Engineers. They have to deal with dirt and water and concrete and asphalt. All of which are a little more unpredictable than stainless steel. And did I mention how clean our water is? It’s all about the water, and our water is good. It is very good.


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