Hillview Water Company has been awarded a $4.7 million grant to improve the quality of the water the company provides to Oakhurst residents and businesses. The company has been dealing with the high concentrations of natural occurring compounds in the Mountain Area like arsenic and uranium for more than 15 years in an attempt to be compliant with the California Department of Public Health standards for drinking water.
As required by the state public health office, Hillview has been sending out quarterly notices to customers since 2002 when routine testing showed high arsenic and uranium levels.
According to a notice sent to Hillview customers in January, purchasing bottled water is unnecessary, although some people drinking water with arsenic over a long period of time, may have an increased risk of cancer and circulatory system problems.
Arsenic levels were not a problem about four to five years ago when the state standard was 50 parts per million, but when the state lowered the standard to 10 parts per million, that put many mountain area water companies, including Hillview, above the standard.
The grant will allow Hillview to treat the water to bring the arsenic, uranium, iron and manganese levels to within all state and federal requirements.
"Our goal has always been to provide a reliable and adequate source of pure, wholesome, healthful, and potable water to our customers," said Hillview Water Co. Manager Jim Foster. "But our granite soil makes that an extreme challenge. The California Department of Public Health realizes how our granite impacts our water source so they've partnered with us to allow us to build treatment plants that will eliminate the non-compliant elements. With this grant we will, finally, be able to meet our long time goal and provide the water our customers want and deserve. The state has been an amazing help to get these old problems fixed permanently."
Foster said the money comes from the Proposition 84 Safe Drinking Water Act approved by voters in 2006.
"We've been working to get this grant since that time," Foster said.
According to Foster, the grant will allow Hillview to create an additional 600,000 gallons of storage but, more importantly, construct a treatment plant that will remove uranium from the water and a second treatment plant to remove arsenic, iron, and manganese, both at a rate of 1,250 gallons a minute. With the completion of this project in 2015, Hillview will meet all state water requirements for healthy drinking water.
"I've been looking forward to this day for more than two decades," said Roger Forrester, Hillview president. "Ever since the water samples came back in 1997 showing that the Oakhurst water had excess levels of arsenic and uranium we've been working to clean up the water. We are now, thankfully, on the doorstep of doing just that. And since this is a grant, the citizens of Oakhurst will not have to pay any of $4.7 million, and the construction costs will not be added to their water bills."
Last May, Hillview received a $2 million grant from the Proposition 50 Water Security Act of 2002. That money allows them to drill three new wells to gain additional high quality water and "blend" it with their existing water supply. When the California Department of Public Health awarded those funds they commended Hillview for "taking steps to enhance the provision and protection of the drinking water supplied to your customers."
Foster said the company's next move is hiring a contractor to build the new water storage facility and treatment plants.
"Now that we have the funding, there's light at the end of the tunnel," Foster said. "The entire Oakhurst community will be happy to get the water they want and deserve and, at long last, we'll be happy to supply it to them.
The company serves about 1,030 residential and business customers in Oakhurst.
Similar water improvements for Raymond are also in the planning stages. Details: Hillview Water Co., (559) 683-4322.