Repair Status Update – Posted April 21, 2014
At this time all major repair projects to District water lines, as well as at the Haldi Intake Structure, have been completed. Work is still continuing at the District’s Dodd facility campus at 6800 Nimbus Road to finish the repairs needed to our property and driveway, and we are collaborating with Boulder County for repair and stabilization of Left Hand Creek at the Nimbus Road Bridge at the northwest corner of our property.
Of the 15 locations where the District sustained damage in the flood, the most critical was the Haldi Intake Structure in Left Hand Canyon. During the flood Left Hand Creek carved a new channel in the canyon which was north of and below the intake structure. This left the District with no way to take the raw water from the creek, which is the District’s sole source of raw water for the winter months. We were able to complete a project to allow for use of raw water from Left Hand Valley Reservoir, which provided for service through the winter months. In order to have sufficient water for summer months and for the long term, however, the Creek was going to have to be restored to its original channel. The District coordinated the effort among multiple parties to accomplish that restoration, and we took the first delivery of water through the pipeline from the intake structure in mid-March. The slideshow below shows the Intake Structure before the flood, after the flood, and post-repair.
Water Hardness Update
Now that we have resumed use of Left Hand Creek water there has been a significant improvement in water hardness. Although the hardness level has not returned to the low level that is normal this time of year, it is only slightly higher than what would be classified as “soft” water. Because we can’t be certain how the flood has impacted the mineral content of the entire Left Hand Creek watershed, we can’t be certain how water hardness levels will be impacted long-term, but at this point the levels are much better.
Original Narrative – Posted Feb 5, 2014
During the historic flooding of September, 2013, the Left Hand Water District system experienced significant damage, as did many of our customers’ properties. Damage was sustained at 15 discrete sites throughout the District, from the Foothills Highway to Del Camino, including over 3,000 feet of treated water pipeline as well as our raw water delivery channels. The driveway to our office was also washed away. The estimated total cost of flood-related repairs is in excess of $2 million. The slideshow below shows some of the damaged sites, as well as some of the photos District personnel took during the event. (the slideshow will automatically scroll through pictures; hovering your mouse over the slide will stop the automatic scrolling)
The damage to our transmission and distribution lines, along with power failures and other compounding factors, led to many customers experiencing service interruptions. A boil water advisory was also issued by the state health department as a precaution due to the breaches in our system. Despite these challenges, District staff had the vast majority of customers’ service restored, and the boil advisory was lifted, within a few days of the start of the flooding. We are grateful to our customers who showed us such patience and understanding during those difficult days.
The map to the left (click on the thumbnail to show the full map) shows the location of each identified damage site, as well as several sites where work has been completed to compensate for flood damage.
From the time the first alarms sounded in the middle of the night on Thursday, September 12th through the day on Friday, September 13th, our crews were doing everything they could to mitigate and compensate for damage where possible. For most of Thursday the Treatment Department staff were simply trying to keep the water treated and to keep the system functioning. The Distribution Department staff were in the field, working in deep water most of the time, trying to locate and isolate line breaches and damage and to report information as they could to the engineering staff. The District Engineer and General Manager, who is also a Professional Engineer, were working at the District office attempting to assimilate the information as it came in from both Treatment and Distribution to continually monitor and assess system damage. The treatment plant and office had no power, no phones, and no internet. Work was completed using emergency generators and flashlights. Due to the lack of power and phones, Administrative staff were assisting from their homes with information and communications coordination.
By Friday, September 13th, 5 of the District’s 8 water storage tanks had drained dry. Left Hand Creek had diverted at Nimbus Road, at the northwest corner of the District’s office property, and had re-routed down the front of property and across our driveway where it met the road, and eventually washed out a large section of our driveway. The gate, payment drop box, mailbox, sign, etc., were also washed away. As Friday progressed, each report from crews in the field brought news indicating widespread failures and system damage. They did all they could do to keep lines running and to isolate breaches, but in many areas the water was simply too high to be able to make any effective mitigation possible. Many District customers were without water service, and a boil water advisory had been issued as a precaution by the state health department. The boil water advisory was issued based solely on the number of line breaches in the system; no contaminants were ever found in Left Hand Water District water.
On Saturday, September 14th, the rain had finally stopped and personnel were finally able to start planning emergency repairs to restore service to customers. Work began to route Left Hand Creek back into its regular channel to regain access to the administrative office. Engineering consultants were able to complete a comprehensive damage survey. Staff coordinated with county and neighboring Offices of Emergency Management for communication and information. Distribution staff worked to restore water lines wherever they could, and contractors were brought in to assist. Treatment staff got the plant back online and were able to start filling the tanks throughout the system.
Throughout Sunday, September 15th and Monday, September 16th, District crews were able to make gains restoring the system to functioning. Service was restored to many areas of the District. An official Declaration of Emergency was issued. Emergency connections were made with neighboring municipalities to provide service to areas where water lines would not be able to be repaired for extended periods of time due to the extent of the damage or the inaccessibility of the lines. Emergency phones were arranged for, allowing staff to answer calls directly for the first time since the flooding started. The District office was still not accessible from Nimbus Road; staff parked at the Oriole subdivision and walked approximately 1/2 mile to get to the administrative office and distribution shop.
On Tuesday, September 17th, the state issued the notice rescinding the boil water advisory. Service had been restored to most District customers, and work was underway to start contracting for and planning the permanent repairs that would be required.
On Wednesday, September 19th, service was able to be restored to the hardest hit area of the District, right along Highway 36 where Left Hand Creek washed away a long section of our main transmission line. Working diligently from the moment they were able to gain access, District personnel working with contractors were able to complete a temporary water line that ran above ground down the side of the Foothills Highway, definitely a unique situation for a water line and one of many examples of ingenuity and diligence in creating solutions:
In the months since the water receded, a majority of the repairs have been completed to restore the system to pre-flood condition. By this spring, we will have completed as many construction projects in the previous 6 months than we typically complete in several years.
Even with the level of damage sustained, water rates will not be affected. The District has sufficient financial reserves to fund the repairs, and we expect to receive federal and state assistance as well.
Throughout the time that District staff were facing such challenges, we were consistently amazed by and grateful for the encouragement, patience, and understanding we received from the Left Hand community. Neighbors around the District office property not only allowed us to use their property to access our offices, but left this note on a gate for us to see as we left one evening:
From the District’s staff, we would like to say – THANK YOU to our customers, and to all those who were on the ground assisting us during those extraordinary days.
Hard Water Information
One of the effects of the flooding event that has prompted the most questions of our staff is regarding hard water. Some customers have noticed changes in the characteristics of their household water, such as an increase of spots on dishes, white deposits on faucets, reduction of suds with soap and laundry products, and problems with household humidifiers. These issues are symptoms of hard water. Flood damage to our intake facilities in Left Hand Canyon forced us to use water stored in reservoirs which has a higher mineral content than our usual creek flow.
While it may cause some of these aesthetic issues, hard water presents no health issues and is safe for all domestic uses.
Most people do not notice a difference in the appearance, taste or odor of water at this level of hardness. Work is underway, and should be completed this spring, to restore our intake facilities. With the return of our “normal” water supply we expect the water hardness to return to pre-flood levels.
Please refer to our Water Hardness FAQ page for more information regarding the effects of hard water and some tips for dealing with it.