Signal Hill City Council addresses recent water concerns

The Signal Hill council approves production of a video about Signal Hill

At its July 11 meeting, the Signal Hill City Council was updated on water-quality issues caused by the introduction of water from Well No. 9 to the city’s supply. It also approved contracts for two water-engineering consulting firms to be retained for help with water issues.

Finally, the council approved creation of a video of Signal Hill to be broadcast at a conference and online, with footage also used for marketing and public relations by the City.

Water quality
Deputy Director of Public Works Grissel Chavez-Arredondo presented the council with an update on the City’s water quality, which had been negatively affected by introduction of water from the new Well No. 9 beginning June 23. The Public Works office has received about 50 complaints regarding the odor and taste of the City’s water in the past two weeks.

The system delivers water to approximately 3,150 residential and business customers. Chavez-Arredondo stated that prior to the introduction of water from Well No. 9, the city’s water came primarily from Wells 7 and 8, along with imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California when needed.

Chavez-Arredondo explained how the blending and treatment of water from Well No. 9, with its different mix of properties, affected the City’s overall water odor and taste.

“Well 9 [water] is being treated to meet state water regulations through the use of chloramines, which is required to kill the bacteria and produce a chorine residual,” she said.

She explained that the required chlorine residual levels from disinfection have caused a change in odor and taste experienced by some, though not all, customers.

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
Mayor Edward Wilson (right) introduces new Public Works Director Kelli Tunnicliff (left) at the Signal Hill City Council meeting on July 11.

“[A] reason why customers are experiencing the taste or odor difference and others are not could also be due to the proximity of their home or business to the new well site,” she said.

Cecil Looney, water-systems superintendent, further explained that most of the impact occurred in places where the initial water from Well No. 9, which had higher levels of residual chlorine, had accumulated. That water has been flushed out of the system using fire hydrants.

“The water system is on zones, and […] the dead-ends of Zone 1 is where the impact was,” Looney stated, referring to the southeast area of the city. “As it reached that dead-end, we had to open up and let that water out […] to get the newly treated water in.”

Flushing out the initial water and continually adjusting treatment levels of chlorine and ammonia are now working to reduce the problem, and the City has seen a decrease in calls.

“The treatment needs to be adjusted on a daily basis, and our goal is to match the chlorine level to […] match the taste and odor that was existing prior,” Chavez-Arredondo stated. “We’re continuing to sample on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and submit the results to the state water control board, and all results show it’s continuing to meet all state standards, and it continues to be safe drinking water.”

However, she stated that the water department would continue to respond to every call reporting a concern and gave its number of (562) 400-0673.

“We also ask the members of the community to run the water from a faucet or a sink or tub or shower for a few minutes, as this may also help clear up the issue,” she said.

Mayor Edward Wilson shared a letter with the council and staff from a 19-year Signal Hill resident commending the City’s response to a water complaint.

“‘I called the City on July 3 […],’” Wilson read from the letter. “’The call was returned a half-hour later by Cecil Looney. He was very understanding, concerned, accommodating and professional. He explained very kindly that they were working daily to rectify the situation. I appreciated the personal concern he had. He was a great reflection of Signal Hill. Thirty minutes later, I received another call requesting a sample of my water. Again, I was moved by the personal interest and the quality of life in Signal Hill.’”

Water engineers
The council approved awarding contracts to two water-engineering consulting firms, AKM Consulting Engineers and Michael Baker International, Inc.

The firms will provide on-call engineering services for scheduled capital-improvement projects, such as rehabilitation of Well No. 8 and implementation of a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system, plus any unscheduled system repair and evaluation needs.

A request-for-proposal had gone out in March and six firms responded, out of which two were selected.
“We feel that by having two consultants, we will have greater discretion and flexibility to select the best firm based on subject-matter expertise and/or meeting the City’s timeline for any given project,” Chavez-Arredondo explained. “This will also give us the ability to negotiate scope-of-work and/or pricing between the two firms.”

Each contract was approved for up to $100,000 annually for a three-year term, with the possibility of three one-year extensions. However, Chavez-Arredondo explained that the total expense the City would incur would not exceed $100,000 annually.

Councilmember Larry Forester commended the staff on their foresight in retaining two consulting firms to make sure technical expertise and availability would not be a problem when needed.

Video
The council approved up to $17,500 in expenses toward production of a video about the City to be produced by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), in conjunction with WebsEdge, a media and production company specializing in online broadcasting based in London, United Kingdom.

ICMA-TV will produce five- to six-minute videos highlighting small cities that embody innovation, forward thinking and progress. Signal Hill has been offered an opportunity to participate as a featured small city at a reduced rate. The total expense is the remaining cost after a $5,000 grant.

Elise McCaleb, economic development manager, explained how the city would benefit.

“By participating, Signal Hill will be able to market the city to a large audience in attendance at the conference,” she said. “The video will be part of the conference’s regular programming, and it will also be streamed via a dedicated TV channel in selected partner hotels and viewed on the ICMA website for one year. Also, as part of this effort, the City will receive all of the footage taken during filming. It is envisioned that the footage will be used for smaller 15- to 30-second public relations and marketing-purpose videos.”

The council viewed a similar video of a small city– Indianola, Iowa– which had participated last year. The video showcased that city with commentary by city staff highlighting its growth potential, accompanied by instrumental music.

In answer to a concern by Forester, McCaleb assured the council that the City would be in control of the storyline and have the ability to edit the film as well.

“They have somebody come out for a day and film the city, and then we help tell the story,” she said. “So, we talk about what story we want to tell before they come out to film the city.”

New director
Wilson introduced the City’s new Public Works Director, Kelli Tunnicliff.

“It is my great pleasure to introduce Kelli Tunnicliff […] as our new public works director,” Wilson stated.
Wilson noted that Tunnicliff graduated from California State University, Long Beach, and is a registered civil engineer and qualified storm-water developer, with over 23 years of experience in the engineering and construction management industries, in both public and private spheres.

She has previously provided construction-management engineering services for the cities of Yorba Linda, Placentia, Newport Beach, Indian Wells and Anaheim.

“I’m very pleased to be here,” Tunnicliff said. “I am excited about our capital projects […] like the storm-water project at the airport and the upcoming library project.”

Commendations
During new business, Wilson shared his experience attending a governmental conference at the end of June, including showing a video made by The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which explained using statistics and animation on how children from underprivileged communities are set back because of a lack of reading ability.

Wilson emphasized the programs that Signal Hill continues to offer in the summer to meet the needs of children, such as a free-food program in Signal Hill Park and Discovery Well Park, plus park activity programs.

He also reiterated the importance of the new library.

“We need to make sure all kids have access to books at all levels,” he said. “And reading is truly fundamental. If you cannot read, it’s very difficult to do anything.”

Forester thanked the police department for their handling of Fourth of July celebrations in Signal Hill, despite the hilltop being full of people.

“I would like to thank the police department. July 4 was extremely well handled,” he said. “I understand there were no altercations or arrests.”

The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, July 25, at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.

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