San Juan Bautista took a big step toward fixing its water problems this week with approval of a new municipal well that is expected to help curb once-dangerous nitrate levels in the supply.
San Juan council members Tuesday approved the low bid of $138,150 from Maggiora Bros. Drilling for the Well No. 6 project with a $25,000 contingency. The city will fund the project through the 2018-19 capital improvements program.
According to a city staff report, Well 6 is located at 987 San Juan/Hollister Road, and it will bring better water quality than city Wells 1 and 2.
With the recent addition of Well 5, the city has three active wells, and Well 6 will provide the city with a redundant water source as required by the State Division of Drinking Water Field Operations.
Maggiora Bros Drilling is now tasked with converting the agricultural well to a municipal well.
“We have to put the well up to our system,” San Juan Councilman John Freeman said. “That means digging a ditch, laying a pipe, hooking it up to the pipe in the street.”
Freeman said the new infrastructure will give San Juan a “second really good well” that will give the city “complete redundancy.”
“That should get us off the violation notice,” he said, adding that it will take some time, however, to go through the process with the state.
The city will have to finish that process before it can hook up any of the new homes being built in town to the water system because the state is requiring the “redundancy” factor, Freeman said.
The Mission City has been plagued for years by high nitrate levels prompting on-again, off-again bans and warnings from the state telling residents not to drink the water.
Going back to 2014, the city started implementing measures that included gradual rate hikes in order to upgrade equipment in an attempt to lower the nitrate levels. City officials believe the latest effort, to transform an agricultural well formerly owned by Dale Coke of Coke Farms in the San Juan area, is a solution that will keep the city’s nitrate levels down for good.
Due to high nitrate levels for more than four years now, the city has been required to notify residents of the dangers, particularly to young children or pregnant women. San Juan Bautista officials have been working to install new wells in order to take the high-nitrate well No. 2 offline.
Most recently, levels in mid-2017 reached the point again where the city had to reinstate public notifications about the potential dangers. City water officials periodically test the water to see if those levels are below the maximum allowable nitrate level of 10 milligrams per liter. In January 2018, nitrate levels ranged from 6.47 to 8.09 milligrams per liter, and the city issued another nitrate notice on its website as a “precaution” because there’s no guarantee levels won’t exceed the maximum, according to the city website at the time.
Nitrate can get into water from runoff of fertilizers containing nitrate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS website states that “too much nitrogen, as nitrate, in drinking water can be harmful to young infants or young livestock.
“Excessive nitrate can result in restriction of oxygen transport in the bloodstream. Infants under the age of 4 months lack the enzyme necessary to correct this condition (“blue baby syndrome”),” according to the USGS.
Maggiora Bros. will do the following as part of the project:
Remove and replace the plumbing and valves at the well head to convert the agricultural well to a municipal water well.
Replace equipment access tube sized to accommodate devices including but not limited to transducers, airlines, and disinfection procedures
Replace the concrete footing around wellhead (minimum 3 feet around wellhead)
Provide, install and connect 6-inch ductile iron pipe to the 12-inch water main in San Juan/Hollister Road
Install storm drain pipe from the well discharge head to the drainage swale along San Juan/Hollister Road in order to dispose of well start-up water.
Source: City of San Juan Bautista