San Juan Bautista gets closer to solving water problems

City Manager expects all issues to be remedied by December.

The San Juan Bautista City Council approved a construction contract with Maggiora Brothers Drilling to install electrical service at Well 5 during its special Sept. 28 meeting.

The contract is not to exceed $20,000, but City Manager Michaele LaForge said she expects the cost to be about $15,000.

Well 5 is located on the eastern edge of the Copperleaf development on San Juan Hollister Road.

The city has been dealing with nitrate-contaminated water since 2014 to the point that it sent out notices to residents to not drink or cook with city water. The city found the source of the nitrates was from Well 2, but remain uncertain as to why it was contaminated.

Water can be contaminated through groundwater movement and surface water seepage from nitrates in chemical fertilizers, human sewage and animal waste,  according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The work includes installing a PG&E service meter, breaker panel, step-down transformer and telemetry/control equipment, according to the agenda packet.

The new electrical service will allow San Juan Bautista to use the well without operating the generator to provide power, LaForge said. According to the agenda packet, a generator has powered the well for six months.

LaForge said the project is within the city’s budget from revenue of water impact fees: $140,000 the city received from Rancho Vista and another $40,000 from Copperleaf.

This work needs to be completed before PG&E connects power to Well 5, which is scheduled to happen between Oct. 15 and Oct. 19, LaForge said.

“That’s why it’s pretty urgent [and] I threw it on this agenda,” LaForge said. “I can’t miss the window or else we are going to wait for months for [PG&E] to come back. And I got everybody lined up.”

More water news

The council also approved a budget not to exceed $15,000 for a study to demonstrate adequate water source capacity.

LaForge said this is about a second compliance order citation to the city from the California State Water Resources Control Board for not having an adequate supply of healthy drinking water.

“We took care of the healthy part by getting rid of the nitrates in the system,” LaForge said. “Now we are well below the nitrate levels. The water is considered healthy.”

The Water Resources Control Board wants a study from hydrologists to show consumption of water versus the supply, Laforge said. She also said the city has received and forwarded two bids, one for $18,000 and another for $10,000, to the state Water Resources Control Board to get their approval.

“So the state is making us do what I’ve been asking for the last year and a half,” Vice Mayor John Freeman said.

San Juan Bautista resident Thomas Hernandez attended the meeting to ask whether the city water was drinkable. He said he received a letter last year notifying him not to drink the water. He also said he came to the meeting because he heard it was still not drinkable while he was in the city office paying his water bill.

“That’s the only reason why I’m actually here,” Hernandez said. “This wasn’t anybody from the public, this is somebody from the actual office talking about it.”

The water is drinkable, but it’s not going to taste good, LaForge told Hernandez. She suggested installing a filter.

Hernandez also said when he did laundry, the water stained his clothes. Freeman suggested installing a $30 water filter from Home Depot on his water line.

San Juan Bautista is in the worst part of the well season, LaForge said.

“We also bought a calcium-manganese filtration system for $150,000 that is being built right now,” LaForge said. “[It] will be installed by November and be online by December. By December we will have zero iron in the water. It’ll be all filtered out.”

Other actions

The City Council voted to set aside $10,000 from the general fund for future use on the San Juan Bautista sesquicentennial celebration in 2019. San Juan’s birthday is on Sept. 6, but the exact dates for the celebration is still being discussed.

LaForge suggested hiring someone to plan the event because she said she has other issues to oversee.

The event planner would deal with marketing, volunteers, communication and other tactical elements, LaForge said.

Mayor Jim West said it wasn’t going to be enough, but if LaForge thought $10,000 was a good starting point he said he was okay with it.

Councilman Chris Martorana was absent from the meeting.



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.