Battling Fires, Home Owners and Businesses Asking for Information | Ventura City Water System


By Deborah Baber Savalla

“Ventura is teetering on the brink regarding its water future. Residents need to demand new, qualified leadership in all areas immediately.” –Joe Richardson, Daniel Cormode, Paul White | January 28, 2017 Citizens Journal Editorial

Fire and rain can give way to damage and destruction. Taken in near-tandem after the recent devastating fires the challenges victims face can be daunting and the despair, crippling. What should victims do next? What questions should they ask of themselves, their insurers and their cities? In San Buenaventura, one man offers answers.

Joe Richardson’s resume includes some impressive qualifications which are included at the end of this article. When I spoke with Joe, he explained that, in part, the reason for him speaking out is to provide a service to his friends and fellow Ventura neighbors. He might be likened to an experienced car mechanic who, in an emergency, wants only to help others understand the nature of the problem under the hoods of their cars so people can grasp the depth of the issue, chart a course for action, and fix the problem.

Mr. Richardson believes people picking up the pieces of their lives after the fire will find the City of Ventura authorities not as helpful as they might have been in years past. He cites several possible reasons for this including incompetence, “non-knowledge” or staff ignorance of the two water systems involved in delivering water to the fire, an elevated storage system versus a pump system. He also believes staff mistakenly may be less than forthcoming with answers because of the Patriot Act passed in October 2001 in response to the 9/11 terror attacks on our country. Staff, he believes, could invoke the Act to avoid answering some questions about the City’s water-related infrastructure. The Patriot Act was renewed in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama.

Here is Joe Richardson’s guide to homeowners and businesses for What-To-Ask-The-City-For when approaching Ventura officials for information about Ventura city-water systems.

By Joe Richardson

The following is provides overview of data that should be requested from and provided by the City of Ventura’s Water Department when investigating issues arising from the Thomas Fire.

The City water system operates as an elevated zone supply system, not a pump water system. Why is this important? Because California State mandates water pressures be maintained by sustained tank and reservoir levels sufficient to provide a minimum of 20 psi, pounds per square inch of water. Further, the State requires records be maintained and are available to the public which attest to tank-water levels. The documents must also confirm that pressures and available pump flows used during the fire meet the required tank level demands.

Ventura City uses SCADA software, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, to manage its water program. The software was originally run on a DEC-based computer (Digital Equipment Corporation). Today, the program is running on a Wonderware platform but the control parameters and abilities are basically the same as the original system. Wonderware actually allows for much more flexibility to make changes which allows easier relocation of the control centers than the original DEC system.

Thus, any investigation should request the following information from the City. I also strongly recommend that the time frame people should use when making their request for information be between two days prior to the fire and the date after the fire event a person was affected by.

Pump Stations: Any and all records depicting the pump flows and start/stop times for the booster pumps throughout the water system.

Pressure stations: Any and all records depicting the recorded pressure at the site (require the actual and specific location of each pressure transmitter to identify the exact data being recorded)

Further to your requests of the City I recommend REQUIRING that officials provide any and all data, held by the City, related to tank or reservoir levels not specifically identified in the list.

These reports and charts that the City has the ability to generate and provide (as mandated by State Law) will allow you to see and understand the actual conditions that occurred during the fire. If the SCADA system does not have the data due to power losses then that issue will be fully identified right to the minute that such power loss occurred and when it was restored.

I sincerely hope this outline is helpful to those seeking relief.

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).”

Why did Ventura’s water system fail in the Thomas Fire? | December 18, 2017

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 […] 

Water expert challenges acceptance of report by Ventura Council | April 26, 2017

 By Joe Richardson From: (Joe Richardson) Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 9:18 PM To: Subject: council meeting April 24, 2017 I wish to make sure that the council is aware of a serious discrepancy from the truth in statements to the council and in a direct answer to Council-woman Heitmann concerning the 2017 Comprehensive Water […]

Ventura’s water mess | January 28, 2017

By Joe Richardson, Daniel Cormode & Paul D. White   The 2016 city of Ventura’s “Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report” is not titled “Half-truths and Outright Misrepresentations,” but it should be. Without major, immediate changes, Ventura’s water shortages will be at a scary level within five years. It will force all growth to stop, and current residents won’t have adequate water to […]

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