VALLEJO (KPIX 5) — The city of Vallejo was in desperate need of a big backup generator Sunday, but it was for a water-related emergency.
As much of Vallejo struggles without power, officials have planned for such a problem by installing a backup generator at the city’s water treatment facility. That plant turns raw water from Northern California lakes into potable drinking water but over the weekend there was a water emergency that had nothing to do with Vallejo at all.
“We were getting close to about two days water left,” said Beth Schoenberger, Vallejo Water Department Operations Manager. “It’s not a situation that we are comfortable with and it’s relatively unprecedented.”
The problem was actually 14 miles away in the town of Cordelia. Vallejo has a pump station there that pushes raw water up to a reservoir on the top of a hill between the two communities and then on to the water treatment plant. When the power in Cordelia was cut off, they had no way to bring in anymore raw water.
“We weren’t warned that it was a potential until Thursday,” said city spokesperson Joanna Altman, “and so that’s when we started working to acquire a generator. But because these generators are so large, they are hard to find.”
The city put out a call for conservation but that was mostly ignored, so a total ban on outdoor watering was ordered. And then as the supply began getting tight, there was even more demand as firefighters battled a large blaze on Sunday. So officials called PG&E and reminded them that water was critical for firefighting and other life-supporting operations.
“…and we considered them partly responsible to make sure we could deliver,” said Schoenberger. That call got the utility’s attention. “It absolutely did,” she said. “Within less than 12 hours we had a generator on our site.”
Late Sunday night, a giant 1,400 volt power plant arrived on semi trucks at the pump station and the water system is now operating normally. And to the residents who were ordered to stop watering, all’s well that ends well.
“Thank you community for receiving that message!” said Altman. “But they may use water again back at normal levels now that we’ve got our raw water pumping into the system now.”
Vallejo emergency planners say it was especially important to get a back-up power supply to the pumping station considering a second major shutoff was anticipated to begin Tuesday.
And while the portable generator is a temporary solution, the city spokesperson says a new permanent generator for the Cordelia pump station has now been added to the city’s capital budget.