Saves at the Pool!

It’s been a relatively calm and wonderful pool season this summer. Either good swimmers or dutiful vigilance have minimized lifeguard actions, until recently…

At the outset of a hot Labor Day weekend, on Saturday, September 3rd 2022, what was thought to be an oak leaf, then perhaps a loose Twix fragment or errant Tootsie Roll, turned out to trigger a “Code Brown” alert at the pool.

The pool had to close! However, some swift chemical interventions applied by the pool staff, thanks to instructions from the Public Works crew, there was a quick resolution to this #2 problem.

Co-Head Lifeguard Orion, with assistance from LG Veronica, and guidance from On-Call Water Operator Caleb, in addition to oversight by CLHG essential worker Cheryl and PW Director and CLHG Board member Bob, succeeded in keeping the pool open – Yay.

And it stayed open for the whole three-day Labor Day weekend serving dozens of folks escaping the late summer heat in our cool pool. Just keep swimming…

Sequoia/Playbowl Pipeline Project

Greetings Cuesta La Honda Guild Members:

In the next few weeks, we will begin Phase 1 of the Sequoia Playbowl Pipeline Project. Casey Construction, the same company that completed the Ventura Avenue Pipeline Project in 2018, is under contract with the Guild to perform Phase 1 of this project.
Phase 1 will:
● Replace the existing 2” main on Sequoia Dr. from Redwood to Play Bowl with an 8”HDPE main.
● Install new water pipe service to homes in the Phase 1 project area on Sequoia Dr. and Guardian Way.
● Install two new hydrants. One will be on Sequoia midway between Redwood and Playbowl. The second hydrant will be at the NW corner of Sequoia and Playbowl. The contract has been signed, and the San Mateo County encroachment permit has been approved. All materials have been ordered, and we are waiting on materials delivery before we can begin.

We want to make sure everyone is aware that production and distribution of materials are still in flux and may be delayed. Once the materials have arrived, Casey Construction will send out a two-week notice of the construction start date.
During the project, there will be daily road closures. There will be no vehicle access to closed roads 8am-5pm on work days. Work will begin at the intersection of Sequoia and Playbowl and work up through Sequoia to the tie-in on Redwood Drive. We have attached a map of the street closures along with a project map. Please note that the project map also includes Phase 2, which is still in the planning stages.
There may be water service disruptions during the project. If disruptions do occur, we will distribute potable water to the affected households as necessary. We know this work may be an inconvenience to nearby residents, but this project will bring enhanced fire protection and improved water service to the area. Phase 2 of this project, still in future planning, will extend the new 8” main and new water system service to the rest of the residents of Sequoia Dr. and Playbowl Dr. with additional hydrants on Sequoia and Playbowl.
If you have any questions, contact Terry Mahoney at
Thank you,
CLHG Board

Sequoia-Playbowl Pipeline Project Maps

GAC Water Treatment Stage Up and Running

By Mike Williams

Aug 25, 2022

In April 2021, the state Division of Drinking Water issued the Guild a citation for excessive disinfection byproduct (DBP) levels in the treated water.  DBPs are formed when chlorine disinfectant reacts with dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the water.  We had two choices – remove residual chlorine by adding ammonia (chloramination), or remove enough DOC.  For our water type, the best way to remove DOC is to pass the water thru granular activated carbon (GAC).  Chloramination is unpopular in the community, and GAC is less expensive in the long run, so the CLHG board gave the go-ahead for GAC in December.

The GAC skid was delivered in June.  Each vessel is 4-ft in diameter and about 9’ tall and holds 50 cubic feet of GAC media.The skid was placed on a newly-constructed pad and plumbed into the Filter Treatment Plant by the end of July.

The GAC skid was successfully prepared for operation by backwashing the vessels to remove fine GAC particles.  It was put on-line on August 16 and has just now completed its initial week of operation.  It is removing ~90% of the DOC, which is expected with fresh media.  Our prediction is that we can meet DBP reduction requirements at 50% removal, which should let us operate for about 9 months before it is necessary to have a GAC changeout service remove the spent media and install fresh media.  Changeout will cost about $9,000.

The non-recurring capital cost for this GAC upgrade came in at about $150,000, compared to a “professionally” engineered GAC update design completed for CLHG in 2018 with an estimated non-recurring cost of $585,000 (in 2021 dollars).  The secret was to size the GAC skid for 50 gpm (more than enough to meet current and forecast needs) and directly drive it from the existing microfiltration membrane skid – no feed tank or pump, no electrical wiring, no FTP control system changes.  

Our Playground

Thanks to CLHG member and vintage photo collector ‘Mountain Wood Joe,’ here’s a picture of the Cuesta Guild Playground in 1930 (note the heart shaped wading pool)…

So, here’s a challenge: which of the following photographs (taken this weekend) is closest to where the above shot was taken in 1930…?

And, ya gotta wonder, what happened to the merry-go-round, how about that slide, how about our current play structures, etc.? Is that heart shaped kiddie pool now a volleyball court? And, how much do trees grow (and things change) in almost 100 years?

Now, think about the fact that the kids who played in that old playground might have since died of old age? Carpe Diem! Maybe, their (great?) grandchildren are playing there now!

In conclusion, got kids? Want to help upgrade our little playground for your children (or their children), or improve our recreation facilities for everyone? Volunteer! Call our office, leave your contact information, and be a part of a new present – and/or an old future…

GAC Upgrade

Here are some pix of the process of adding a Granular Activated Carbon system to our Water Filter Treatment Plant this summer. Stay tuned for more details on this successful and cost effective project…

The lower reservoir, water tanks, the filter treatment plant, and the new GAC system.

Redwood Drive water main break – fixed!

The Guild Public Works crew repaired the water main break on Redwood Drive on Monday and have restored the road to one lane service pending further repairs.  Boil Water Notices have been issued to 12 affected residences and will be lifted as soon as bacterial test samples are found to be OK.  The Water Emergency Notification system via Grayson worked, except it needs some fine tuning – like getting back to callers with updates.


Independence Day Picnic

This year – 2022 – was the return from Covid (although at this writing, it is not in remission). After last year’s abbreviated festivities, and the previous year’s complete cancellation, the 4th of July Picnic in Playbowl was back. Thanks to Corinne Poulson and her staff of dedicated volunteers, Independence Day in La Honda was again a blast. In addition to the great music and outstanding food – a barbeque-bolstered potluck – the kids had a great time playing some good old fashioned games (many winners of the Dave Strohm Award). Thanks to the whole community for coming together for fun!

Scenic Drive Reopens with Congresswoman Eshoo

It’s a really big deal when a small town like la Honda gets its main road fixed. It’s an even bigger deal when that fix is a serious, highly engineered, $3 million repair that will withstand any number of future disasters thrown its way. And, wow, it’s a really, really big deal when you consider that this $3 million fix was done at no cost to Cuesta La Honda residents, when an earlier fix on Scenic Drive in 2008 resulted in a $2.1 million tax assessment for the community. That $2.1 million assessment meant that each homeowner in Cuesta had to make a payment of $6,029 ($12,063for those parcels at the epicenter of the slide) in a lump sum or in annualized payments. Many of you reading this are still paying that off today, right?

The cost this time? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Our road has been fixed, the homeowners compensated, and the residents of La Honda did not have to pay $6,000 (or more, with inflation)for that happy development.

How did we get so lucky? After all, there are dozens of disasters every year in this country, many bigger and more newsworthy than ours. We are a tiny town. Our needs could have so easily fallen to the bottom of some very big pile on a bureaucrat’s desk. But they didn’t and there are two big reasons why.

First, five years ago, when the landslide wiped out three homes and Scenic Drive, a group of La Honda residents decided that they could make government listen to them. They formed “The Slide Committee” and were tasked by the Board of the Cuesta La Honda Guild to lobby the government to get Scenic Drive fixed and to get those homeowners compensation for their losses. And just like it says in the First Amendment to the Constitution, they petitioned the government for redress, with lots of meetings, phone calls and emails. Slide Committee members, including Krista Kuenhackl, Maryann Chwalek, Bob Meehan, Carol Prentice, Mike Williams, Sherry Johnson, Nigel Webb, Tim Nelson and Kat Moazed worked with County, State and Federal officials to get them to come see the damage for themselves and to meet with our neighbors who had lost their homes. And we didn’t give up until we saw real results.

Second, we were extremely fortunate in the elected representatives we had to work with. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has represented La Honda since 1992 and now has the seniority and holds the leadership positions in Washington that directly benefits us, her constituents. She put that to good use in pushing the appropriate levers in government to get FEMA and state and local agencies to fund the full cost of the repairs for Scenic Drive. It is no exaggeration to say that without Anna Eshoo as our member of Congress, this little town would not have gotten $3 million dollars to fix our main road and to compensate our neighbors who lost their homes. There are scores of communities in this country waiting years for their impassable roads, cracked bridges and broken pipelines to get fixed. But now we’re not one of them.

San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley also helped push the necessary funding and approvals through at the County level to help us get Scenic Drive repaired. Owing to term limits, he’s retiring this year, but it’s a reminder that the election this year for the position of District 3 County Supervisor is an important one for our community.

So, on February 23, a crisp sunny day, a few dozen happy La Hondans gathered with Congresswoman Eshoo and Supervisor Horsley to celebrate the reopening of Scenic Drive. Our guests cut the big red ribbon we had strung across Scenic and we drank champagne and ate the traditional opening day sheet cake. It was a glorious gathering, probably one of the largest we’ve had in La Honda since the pandemic started! People are genuinely excited about having their road back. Dave wants to have boxcar derby race down it, Krista’s going to skateboard the length of it and I’ve already seen a flurry of strollers and bicycles on it. For the rest of us, I think we’re just happy to be able to motor our way down Scenic Drive once again without having to meander a circuitous route through Cuesta just to get to the Post Office. I know the folks on Beverly and Cuesta Real are going to be grateful for a lot less traffic and wear and tear on their smaller roads.

For the five years since the slide happened, we’ve heard a few ask why it took so long to get it repaired or why they couldn’t just shovel a few tons of gravel into the massive hole and call it a day. To that the Slide Committee would point to the results of a patient, considered citizens effort that yielded a solid, engineered repair that is actually safe, impervious to collapse and that will last through weather events to come. And, just as important, it was a repair that did not cost the La Honda residents a single penny. And that’s a really, really big deal.

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) Upgrade

The Guild has been working on a solution to reduce disinfection byproduct (DBP) levels in the treated water since the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) issued a violation citation in April 2021. The creek water we treat contains dissolved organic carbon (DOC), which the existing microfiltration skid can’t remove. Chlorine injected to further disinfect the filtrate reacts with DOC to breed DBPs as the water ages in the storage tank and distribution system. Based on previous testing and analysis, there are two feasible options: 1) Chloramination, which reduces free chlorine residual level by injecting ammonia, or 2) Pass the filtrate thru Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) before chlorination, which reduces DOC concentration. 20-year service life cost estimates showed that chloramination, in addition to being unpopular, is more expensive in the long run due to the need for precise control and increased testing.

The board selected the GAC option.

The Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) project has four main components:

  • Specify and order a two-vessel GAC skid The contract was awarded to Tetrasolve Filtration. The forecast shipping date is Aug. This is expected to be the critical path.
  • Design and construct a concrete pad for the GAC skid outside the filter treatment plant.
  • The pad has been designed based on load bearing and seismic parameters provided by a structural engineer, the site is being prepared, and pad construction will be awarded soon.
  • Specify the plumbing between the filter treatment plant and GAC skid. The contract to detail the design and install the plumbing was awarded to Express Plumbing (EPS).
  • Install, connect, backwash, and operate the new GAC processing stage. Hopefully complete in Sept. 

Concerning regulatory requirements:

  • San Mateo Co. requires no planning or building permits (this took seven weeks to determine).
  • Progress Reports are being submitted to DDW quarterly.
  • An Environmental Intake Form was submitted to DDW in accordance with CEQA requirements.
  • A Technical Report describing the project was submitted to DDW as a condition to start construction and was accepted.
  • An Operations Plan and 100% as-built drawings need to be submitted to DDW.
  • If all goes well, DDW will issue a revision to our Domestic Water Supply Permit to approve and require the GAC stage upgrade.