Why did Ventura’s water system fail in the Thomas Fire?

By Joseph Richardson

One expert gives his opinion:

The city water system is a complex elevated zone system. The two diagrams here lay it out in two fashions … pressure mapping and elevated zone mapping. My intent on letting these get out is that I am aware the City will NOT be releasing such information.

The control system for water system was for years at the corp yard on SanJon (where I installed it in 1986) in recent years with the upgrade in the operating system used to Wonderware the controls were moved to the Ave Treatment Plant and primary control of the system was transferred from the Pump Crew to the Water Treatment Operators.

Power to the pump stations on the east end WAS impacted by the fire. None of those pump stations have any kind of permanent or automatic backup power. The City owns a few trailer mounted generators and those pump stations were fitted with switchgear and connection devices (in the 80’s) to use the trailer mounted generators but it is all a manual operation. Additionally there is no backup power at the Ave Treatment Plant for the control system. As I understand it, the operators not only didn’t have power to run pumps, they had no way to monitor tank levels or any other control function due to the loss of the SCADA system. Only actual visits to the tanks themselves or the pump stations themselves by personel was available. The city itself had generator problems and initiated a call to borrow a trailer mounted- one from Caleguas and it was provided but as I understand it, the City never hooked it up to anything.

The growth of the 90’s to the east end of the city did NOT require the developers to provide additional storage or pumping capability to the east end water system which includes Ondulando and Knob Hill. These systems were and are as originally purchased from the Saticoy Water system in 1965. Clearview development added significant users to the system but not any more capability.

Anyway,  I am willing to make myself available to anyone wishing to learn more about the city water system but finding the City is not going to help. I have helped the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association with lawsuits over water system operations, recently getting a major victory over the City of Pasadena on a rate case. I just mention these things as I have expertise but I am also willing to be outspoken against what I perceive to be incompetent City staff.

Joseph Richardson is a 37 year resident of Ventura … now retired with an Associate Engineering Degree in Electronics and an Associate of Science Degree in Water Science. From his resume: 

“21 Years with Southern California Edison Company in Power Plant Operations and Instrumentation and Controls, 7 Years Production Supervisor City of Ventura Water Department, 5 Years Instrumentation and Controls, IT Technician, Mobil Oil Company, 5 Years Water Treatment Plant Operator at the Port Hueneme Brackish Water Reclamation Demonstration Facility (Potable water Membrane treatment plant), 2 Years Weapons Systems rehab and repair.  Held:  California Department of Public Health Certification, Grade 3 Water Treatment Plant Operator Certification, Grade 4 Water Distribution Operator Certification, 25 years I was a Water Science Dept Instructor at the Ventura campus of the Ventura County Community College District and taught; Introduction to Water Science, Basic and Advanced Water Treatment, Water Distribution, Pumps and Motors, Hydraulics, Management, and Cross Connection Control. I provided assistance as the senior instructor of the program with formation of an advisory committee made up of administrative leaders in the industry in Ventura County to promote and support the college program.Additionally, I worked with the college administration, setting up and formalizing the matriculation of our programs credits for admission to a bachelor degree program in Public Administration. (first in the State to be so recognized).”

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2 Responses to Why did Ventura’s water system fail in the Thomas Fire?

  1. Patrick Gladden January 9, 2018 at 8:51 am

    Let’s see how it plays out. I had hillside sprinklers that could have helped if we had water.

  2. William Hicks December 19, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I would be interested to hear what our resident authority, Daniel Cormode, thinks this article.


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