It’s no secret: Eau de Colus is infamous for one thing: the oft-present signature smell that slides along le spectre d’odeurs d’oeufs — from boiled on a good day to rotten on a bad one.
For those with a limited background in French: Colusa water often smells like eggs.
“I have my own well; so, I don’t have to deal with it… Rotten eggs, boiled eggs, it’s quite pungent,” lifelong Colusa resident Dick Armocido said. “When I was high school playing sports, and visiting people had to shower in our gyms, they wondered why we always washed with boiled egg water.”
As most Colusa residents likely already know, sulfur is the culprit.
“That’s what causes the smell,” Colusa Mayor Tom Reische said. “We’ve always been able to keep that to a minimum by treating the water with chlorine, but then you have older residents calling and complaining, asking for their old water back. It’s a vicious cycle.”
All ribbing aside, Colusa Public Works Administrative Director Jesse Cain and his staff are working to make sure that cycle ends soon.
The city is in the process of drilling three test wells at various sites in the City of Colusa and are on a mission to find a higher quality water source for the city’s water customers. The well project has been a long time coming, Cain said. The city first submitted their application to the state in 2013.
Colusa’s path to improved water quality extends further back than that, to 2010. Six years ago, the city’s voters approved the water rate increases that would ultimately enable Cain to secure a grant for the new wells.
“The need was, the council, when we did the (Proposition) 218 (process) six years ago, we had to raise rates to provide citizens with better water quality,” Cain said. “This was promised to residents years ago, where if there were to raise their rates, we would commit to finding better water quality. We’re following through on the promise made six years ago.”
Before the increase, Cain and the city had applied for grants, but were denied due to rates not being at a level that would allow the city to pay for a loan. At that point, the city was providing water to its residents at a loss, Cain said.
“That was the goal, other than covering operation costs. The rates had to go up to meet that standard for us to secure a grant,” Cain said.
After the rate increase had been passed, Cain did a new income study for the city, applied for a grant again.
This time, the city got it.
The grant that the city received would pay for two test wells. The third, which will be paid for by the city, was an afterthought, Cain said.
At a cost of $130,000, the city of Colusa will be getting the equivalent of half a million dollars in work.
“We really can’t beat the fact that we’re getting this work for next to nothing,” Reische said. “And we’re all clearly headed in the right direction.”
The city has completed the first test well, located on at the community park on Country Club Drive, and are in the process of taking samples at various depths in the second, located on the south end of Fifth Street. The third will go in at Bridge and Market Streets.
“We’re not finished with the second one yet. We just pulled our second zone sample this morning,” Cain said on Tuesday. “If everything goes according to plan, we will have our third zone sample by tomorrow, and will have our fourth zone sample shortly after that.”
Each zone represents a different well depth and a different aquifer, Cain explained.
Drilling begins in zone one, at a depth of 1000 feet. Zone two is the aquifer at 750 ft, zone three is between 600-650 feet, zone four is between 410-470 feet, and zone five is at 300 feet. While the official report on the water quality won’t be available until November, Cain said that the preliminary in-house results have looked promising.
“With the preliminary results from the aquifers at deeper levels, it seems like that’s pretty good water quality. Iron and manganese levels are low, and Arsenic not even detectable… At shallower depths, the test wells appear to have similar water quality with the existing wells we have,” Cain said. “The preliminary results give us just a ballpark look at those levels.”
Cain’s top priority is fulfilling the promise of better water quality for Colusa residents made in 2010 — but he has a personal goal too.
“My personal goal is to have water quality to the point that I never get a smelly water call, a yellow water call, or a black water call again. That’s what I would like to see out of all of this.”
Au Revoir, odeur d’oeuf.<