Donner Lake Water Company customers must conserve water

Beleaguered Donner Lake Water Company customers must now conserve water or face punishment.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved a mandatory rationing and conservation plan for more than 1,200 customers of the water company Aug. 3.

The next day, Donner Lake Water Co. installed a new pump that resulted in enough pressure delivering water to customers who had been out of water for several days.

"We installed a pump that went online at approximately 8 p.m.," water company president Bob Fortino said. "My engineers tell me over 100 gallons per minute were restored to the system with the new pump and we had no outages this weekend."

The California Department of Health Services determined that broken pipes and low pressure in the company's system increase the risk of parasite and coliform contamination. The agency issued a water emergency declaration and a boil water notice June 22, followed by a citation for insufficient water supply.

The citation directed the water company to take immediate action to supply an adequate and dependable water to the system with adequate pressure at all times.

There is no filtration for the drinking water obtained from Donner Lake. The water company does chlorinate the water to kill harmful parasites such as giardia and cryptosporidium.

The utilities commission also approved a moratorium on new connections and ordered a financial audit of the water company.

In a letter delivered to the commission, president of the Truckee Donner Public Utilities District Ron Hemig wrote "the Board of Directors of the Truckee Donner PUD heard from approximately 100 customers of Donner Lake Water Company regarding the severe problems they are experiencing with water quality and service. The Board was asked to consider providing water service to the Donner Lake area."

Officials from the department of health and the utilities commission will meet with Peter Holzmeister, general manager of the Truckee Donner PUD, to discuss how the company would serve the residents of Donner Lake.

"I suspect that the residents of Donner Lake feel more confident that Truckee Donner PUD will be able to solve their problems," Holzmeister said.

The department of health services mandated the water company provide a surface water treatment facility in 1993. Rate increases and time extensions were granted by the department of health to study the feasibility and environmental effects of the treatment plant.

The water company applied for a $5 million State Revolving Fund loan to replace the existing conduit system, where much of the water outages are suspected to occur. The loan is slated for review by the PUC Sept. 7.

"I think the water company is getting a handle on things," commission Water Advisory Division Branch Chief Fred Curry said. "They are going to receive a loan on Sept. 7 and that will improve the situation. The approval of the money by the commission is the last hurdle for Donner Lake. The Department of Health Services is ready to cut them a check just as soon as they get an invoice."

Although the money allocated for the distribution system will be enough to replace the treatment facility, opposition to the treatment site may delay construction.

The town of Truckee's Planning Commission approved the treatment site in July. An appeal was filed by Donner Lake Village. The Town Council meeting to review the appeal, originally slated for Aug. 17, was delayed until Aug. 31.


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