Tahoe City PUD completes $4 million water service upgrade

Margaret Moran
Water sprays out of an old Lake Forest Water Company tank on Old Mill Road, which the Tahoe City Public Utility District abandoned when replacing the aging, failing system.
Courtesy Tahoe City Public Utility District |

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — After years of noncompliance, the water system serving Lake Forest property owners is up to code.

Last month, the Tahoe City Public Utility District finished replacing the community’s 80-year-old failing water system, including more than 10,000 linear feet of new water lines and 27 new fire hydrants.

“We are so appreciative of TCPUD’s commitment to helping out our community,” said Logan Carnell, a Lake Forest property owner, in a statement. “The water situation in Lake Forest was horrible, and we desperately needed their help.”

A major problem was arsenic contamination stemming from the Old Mill Well, drilled in 2004 and one of three water sources for the private Lake Forest Water Company, according to previous reports.

An Aug. 25, 2010, California Department of Public Health inspection report addressed to former LFWC owner Rick Dewante, stated water samples taken in early 2007 from the well showed arsenic levels at twice the states’s allowed Maximum Contaminant Level.

Other system deficiencies included lack of fire suppression, inadequate storage and shallow, undersized water lines, according to TCPUD.

As a result, 72 percent of the company’s 123 customers petitioned the TCPUD in 2007 to exercise eminent domain and execute a public takeover of the company — which the district subsequently did.

A Dec. 2, 2010, ruling from Placer County Judge Margaret Wells awarded operational control of the company to TCPUD and criticized Dewante’s management.

Dewante, who purchased the company in 1996 for $115,000, said in a 2010 interview he was complying with health department orders.

However, in November 2010, the health department reportedly determined Dewante had not conducted appropriate follow-up monitoring, and thus was out of compliance with state standards.

Immediately after taking control of the company in January 2011, TCPUD installed a second interconnection between the district’s water system and Lake Forest’s, thereby providing users with water that meets state and federal water quality standards.

“Providing safe drinking water is a critical part of TCPUD’s mission, and the board recognizes the importance of helping all of our taxpayers find solutions to their health and safety needs,” said Dan Wilkins, vice president of the TCPUD board, in a statement.

System improvements continued in August 2011 with water main replacement along Lake Forest Road as part of a three-phase construction project.

In Phase 2, new water mains were installed throughout the community, while Phase 3 relocated individual backlot water connections to connect to the new mains.

The project cost approximately $4 million — including the acquisition of LFWC at $370,000 — with no impact to TCPUD ratepayers, said Kelli Twomey, TCPUD director of resource development and community relations.

Project funding consisted of a $2 million grant from the California Department of Public Health’s Proposition 50 funding, $1.3 million from the public health department’s Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and $400,000 from Placer County Redevelopment Agency.

The remaining balance was funded through TCPUD property tax reserves.

For Carnell, that translates to having safe, clean drinking water and proper area fire suppression.

“(Having clean water) is a luxury and a convenience,” she said.

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