This blog post captures the research I've done into the DSCA water system. A list of links to reference material has been included at the bottom of this page.
The DSCA board and water committee need to address several issues facing our water system. Here is a brief summary of these issues:
- Legal water systems operator: Our water system currently lists Bob Egan as our water system operator, but he has been retired for a number of years. I've spoken with his understudy, Buddy Wright, who took over his customers, and he told me he is not interested in coming out to Decatur to do work. We need to find a legitimate, licensed water system operator to maintain our water system and get us back into compliance with DOH requirements.
- Contractors for new hookups: The water system has a list of three pre-approved contractors that are allowed to do new hookups. None of these contractors are available for hire.
- Preventing Catastrophic Leaks: I've been doing research on what it would take to mount a digital readout to the outside of the pump house, so that anyone walking by can see if the pump has been running more than 'normal'. This system could additionally be connected to the internet and automatically alert the BOD and water system committee to potential catastrophic leaks.
- Dawni's Overage: In late 2018, there was a leak that was at least partially caused by faulty water system equipment under the ownership and management of DSCA. DSCA is headed down the road of a losing legal battle that will benefit no one. It is my hope the Board of Directors will diffuse the situation before it escalates any further.
Legal Water Systems Operator & Hookup Contractors
Bob Egan, the 'official' water systems operator that DSCA is licensed under to comply with Department of Health (DOH) requirements, has been retired for a number of years. I contacted him in March 2017 because I thought I needed to do a 'hot-tap' hookup to the DSCA water system. He passed me on to his apprentice, Buddy Wright, who has taken over all his customers since his retirement.
Buddy informed me that he is no longer working on the outer islands, like Decatur. He also does not do a 'hot tap' as required by our water system. He recommended Island Excavating, but when contacted, they did not respond to my emails.
Stan Arnott of A&A Well Drilling has been recommended as a candidate for a water systems operator as well. Though it's unclear if he has the equipment to do a hot-tap.
Preventing Catastrophic Leaks
Dawni's catastrophic leak in 2018 lasted for approximately 30 days without anyone noticing. It was the off-season and few people were on-island. The only reason it was caught was due to monthly meter checking.
This kind of leak could happen to any of the dozens of water system users. An inexpensive electronic sensor at the well pump could detect these kinds of system failures and alert the appropriate people.
I have a 4-year degree in electrical engineering. I've already inspected the pump circuitry in the pump house, created a material list, and built a working prototype that could monitor the pump and display three numbers on a small screen. This screen would be mounted on the outside of the pump house, under the eves. It would display three numbers:
- The number of hours the pump has been running in the current week.
- The weekly average number of hours the pump has been running over the last two months.
- The weekly average number of hours the pump ran this time last year.
These numbers create what is known as an A-B test. The actual value of the numbers don't matter. What matters is if the numbers are close to one another, or drastically different.
Any DSCA member would be able to walk by the pump house and at-a-glance know if they should alert the BOD. If all the numbers are roughly the same, the water system is operating normally. If the first number is significantly different than the other two numbers, then it could indicate a leak.
If an internet connection was installed at the pump house ($45 per month). This system could easily be expanded to automatically email members of the water committee in the event of a leak.
I would like to move forward with installation, but I want it to be an officially approved project by the water committee and approved by the BOD.
As stated, a catastrophic leak occurred over a 30-day period at Dawni's house in October of 2018. This was partly due to a faulty shut-off valve on the DSCA owned side of the meter. Here is her explanation of what happened.
Here are two images of her meter setter, clearly showing the shut-off valve in the 'off' position and clearly emitting a significant quantity of water:
The evidence seems clear to me that DSCA is at fault in this situation, and I think a judge would clearly rule with the same verdict.
Dawni has been given a list of improvements, which she's implemented, and is adequately connected to the water system, including a shut-off valve on the home-owners side of the meter. But the matter of her fine is still unsettled and unresolved.
I strongly suggest to the Board of Directors and the Water System Committee that we do the following:
- Replace her faulty meter setter with a new one that does not leak.
- Install an electronic meter at the pump house to detect and prevent long-running leaks like this one.
- Forgive the fine levied against Dawni for her catastrophic loss.
As a result of this catastrophic loss, a lot of water was wasted, but no equipment was damaged and Dawni has taken steps to prevent it from happening again. However, DSCA has not taken any steps to prevent the kind of systemic failure that allows leaks to go undetected for 30 days.
Dawni has been extremely patient with the DSCA BOD and was denied water at her home for several months. If I had been in her situation, I would have started litigation against DSCA right away. I feel she has more than enough evidence to show fault on the side of DSCA.
Forgiving the fine and moving forward is the healthiest thing our community could do. Pursuing her fine will not benefit the community in any way.