From CWEA President Debi Lewis: Water Heroes Help Communities Get Through Disasters

Members in the News, Wastewater News

Dear Fellow CWEA Member,

2017 will go down in the California history books as an incredibly challenging year. January 2017 started with record breaking floods; February saw the dam spillway collapse; two of the State’s largest fires in history occurred in October and December; and now, January 2018 begins with tragic mud slides along Southern California’s coast.

21 people so far are confirmed deceased in the Montecito mud flows, 100 homes are destroyed and the City’s water infrastructure is severely impacted.

I’ve heard many stories of bravery, passion and commitment from members who faced adversity. A couple of those stories are listed below and we’re working on more stories to share with you in the coming months.

I’m so proud to work alongside you. We all share a passion for our responsibilities to protect clean water. We’re also there for our communities when disaster strikes – ready to go to work holding the system together or quickly putting it back together after the skies clear. All the while, we’re helping one another and sharing the lessons we’ve learned.

Please consider donating to one of the Santa Barbara/Ventura/Ojai charities listed below. Let’s continue to prepare for an environment that can throw anything at us at any moment. Let’s be ready and let’s continue helping each other.


Debi Lewis
CWEA President

Local charities recommend by TriCounties leaders:

Here are updates from TriCounties section leaders:

Carpinteria Sanitary District is a CalWARN member and had mutual aid agreements in place. They also have an individual agreement with Montecito. Crews inspected Carpinteria’s system after the mud flows, found they were okay and dispatched crews and emergency equipment to go help Montecito.

“We had set out our portable generators and trash pumps the day before the storm in preparation, so our equipment was in place before the rain,” said Mark Bennett, Carpinteria SD’s Operations Manager.

A flood wall between Carpinteria’s treatment plant and the creek was undermined so emergency assessments are underway. Three of the District’s four wastewater operators live on the other side of the 101 closure so getting to work was a challenge. The 101 re-opened January 21st.

During a public meeting on January 16th, the Montecito Sanitary District told residents the wastewater treatment plant was not impacted by the mudslides and is functioning normally. Of the 2,000 manholes in the area, 1,300 have been inspected and 1,100 are in good condition. Crews have begun sucking debris and mud out of the remaining sewers and taking the debris to the treatment plants.

The City of Santa Barbara, El Estereo treatment plant and sewer systems are fine. Sewer crews went to go help the City of Montecito. Employees who live in the southern part of the area had trouble getting to work with the 101 shutdown.

Goleta Sanitary District is north of the fire and flood areas so they were okay. The District sent many of their maintenance, operations and collection team members out to provide many hours of mutual aid assistance. They assisted Montecito and the County of Santa Barbara.
Employees who live in the southern part of the area had trouble getting to work.

Ojai Valley Sanitary District did okay through the fire and, so far, mud flows have not developed in their valley.

The City of Montecito took the biggest hit from the mud flows. One of their main reservoirs was sliced open during the storm and the district was unable to stop the flow due to a power outage, according to news reports.
“The Montecito area is facing many challenges before they will let residents return,” noted Thomas Welch, Santa Barbara’s Chief Plant Operator. “Much of the infrastructure in the area was destroyed or damaged: natural gas, electricity, water, sewer and roads. The area has been under a boil water notice and I understand some of the sewers are filled with mud. It will take a while before Montecito is back to normal.”

This video on Facebook from Mark Bennett at Carpinteria really shows the extent of the devastation (Facebook may require log-in). It’s a manhole packed to the lid with mud and debris.

“Our crew was asked by the City of Carpinteria to clean the main storm drain. It runs in front of our Administration office and was surcharged three blocks upstream of the creek. The force of the water was so great it popped manhole covers and deposited three feet of mud in the street blocking access to the treatment plant. Our crews had to clear the road. People helping people,” said Mark.