The Idyllwild Water District directors approved the acquiring a granular-activated carbon filter as the solution to the current high level of disinfectant by-products.

These chemicals — trihalomethanes (such as chloroform) and haloacetic acids — are formed from the reaction between chlorine, the purification chemical and natural organic material in the water. The appearance of disinfection by-products in a district’s water supply happens throughout the country and can be corrected.

Based on the report from Water Quality and Treatment Solutions Inc. of Canoga Park, IWD’s consultants, General Manager Jack Hoagland presented two major alternatives to the board. Besides the installation of a GAC filter, the district could modify its purification process.

This alternative would use ammonia compounds to reduce the level of chlorine in the water, but ammonia can produce its own set of byproducts. Hoagland recommended, “Just take the organic material out rather than change the disinfectant.”

The board unanimously agreed to pursue this option.

Most of the discussion among the directors concerned the cost of the project. WQTS’s estimate was a wide range, between $700,000 and $1.5 million. Hoagland is confident the staff can install the equipment. He estimated the total cost, if staff did the work, would likely be between $300,000 and $400,000 depending upon materials.

The board approved a motion for him to acquire the filter and other installation costs for up to $200,000. If or when he may need more, the board will be receptive to a modification.

Filters for homes

All the board members were in favor of some sort of subsidy for customers who need water filters until the DBP concentrations are reduced to acceptable levels.

Director David Hunt made a motion to authorize a rebate or subsidy for purchasing a filter, which raised questions. The two most significant were the amount of the rebate and the eligible customer group.

President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly thought all IWD customers should be eligible and other directors were in favor of limiting the rebate to customers in the area where the DBP exceeds standards, which is the lower Pine Crest neighborhood.

The board then asked Hoagland to raise the issue with the district’s counsel and offer a proposal at the September meeting.

Flushing pipelines

Several individuals and board members suggested that the DBP high levels may be concentrated in the lower Pine Crest area because the pipeline dead-ends there. In the past, IWD was known to have flushed this pipeline more frequently and the DBP levels never exceeded the maximum contaminant levels.

Dwight “Buzz” Holmes in the audience was a strong advocate for greater use of this step until the GAC filter is installed. He also recommended the district investigate whether this pipe could be connected to another, thus forming a loop, which creates consistent water flow rather than stagnating.

He also recommended similar consideration at the Idyllwild Arts area.

Hoagland replied that the volume of the Idyllwild Arts use limits the amount of time the water sits. He added that he has studied the possibility of extending the pipeline at the end of Pine Crest.

“It would have to go across Lily Creek, which is a challenge,” he said. “The cost estimate would be about $400,000.” This option would also require more time, because an environmental approval for crossing the creek would be needed before work could begin.

Holmes did suggest that IWD prepare “… a two- to five-year plan to evaluate the benefits of ‘looping’ and what it could do for the system.”

Both directors Steven Kunkle and Hunt urged more flushing of the pipeline in the Pine Crest area. Kunkle also was an advocate for exploring and drilling more wells to relieve the dependency on the Foster Lake wells where the organic material has accumulated.