From the Dec. 26, 2012 edition
By Elaine Weinreb
Special To The Press
As of Saturday, Dec. 22, the water in Westhaven was deemed safe to drink.
A few days earlier, on Thursday, residents were told to boil their drinking water after a large redwood tree fell on the community water tank, crushing a corner of the roof and scattering debris through the water.
The springs which supply the residents of Westhaven with their drinking water are located in a redwood forest, so the treatment plant is surrounded by trees.
On Thursday afternoon, December 20, the weather had been stormy all day, with gusts of high wind.
Late that afternoon, Richard Swisher, the general manager of the Westhaven Community Water District, was making his evening inspection of the district’s facilities, when he noticed something was amiss. A fallen redwood was leaning against the top of the water tank, an enclosed building about the size of a small house.
Swisher and his assistant Jamie quickly assessed the damage. A hole had been punched into the roof, but luckily, the damage was above the water line, avoiding a catastrophic leak.
However, the water, which had already been filtered and chlorinated, was now thoroughly polluted by debris from the tree and the roof fragments.
They managed to remove the tree from the roof, and cover the hole in the roof with tarps. Perched on the catwalk, between the rafters above the water, Jamie raked out the largest chunks of junk with a leaf rake.
A couple of years earlier, the district had invested in a robotic underwater pool cleaner to get rid of sediment. This investment now saved the day, because it enabled the staff to get rid of the remaining detritus that had sunk to the bottom of the huge tank.
Some of the refuse was floating on top of the tank. The staff rented a pool skimmer to get rid of it.
Then Swisher, secretary Sarah Jordan, and Swisher’s wife telephoned every single one of the water district’s 200-plus customers, telling them to use bottled water, or else boil the drinking water before using it. The calls took hours.
Swisher amped up the chlorination system, and took a sample of the water to a lab for testing.
“I talked to the people at the Health Department in Redding and basically, we’ve already done everything they were going to tell us to do,” he said.
The falling tree was not the only problem that the water district has had with this tank. The roof has been rotting for years, Swisher said, and the district does not have the money to replace it. Replacing the roof on the existing structure is not feasible, because the tank would have to be drained, leaving the residents of Westhaven without water.
Two weeks ago, the district submitted a grant application to the state, requesting Proposition 84 funding to build a new tank. If the application is approved, the new tank could be built by summertime. In the meantime, carefully applied blue tarps will keep foreign objects out of Westhaven’s water.
The WCSD can be reached at 677-0798. A recorded message has been left on its answering machine.