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Putting Off Well Operation Start Up Costs City $73K
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A delay in getting a city well operational has cost the City of Oakdale $73,000 in pump shaft repairs due to the manufacturer’s claim that the warranty had expired during the three-year time the well sat inactive after the installation of the shaft and the actual time the well was put into service.

The failure of the pump shaft resulted in finger pointing between city officials, the manufacturer, MagnaDrive of Seattle and the installer, Amerine Systems of Oakdale over the cause of the failure and who is responsible for repair costs.

In July 2003, the city contracted with Calwater Drilling for Phase 1 of the well project, which was the drilling and development of City Well 9 to serve the Vineyard and Bridle Ridge areas.

In February 2005, Amerine Systems began work on Phase 2, which included installation of the well’s pump, motor, and electrical controls at a cost of $613,750. The work continued through January 2006, being inspected by the firm of Giuliani and Kull Engineering of Oakdale on an ongoing basis.

During the process, the city sought to obtain an operational permit for the well through the California Department of Public Health, conducting various tests and samplings of the well. The permit was eventually denied in March 2007 due to omissions in the quality reports, missing technical documents, and the absence of an Environmental Impact Report.

No action was taken by the city until April 2009 when it took renewed action in obtaining the proper operating permit due to the need to put the well into service. In July of that year, the city received the go-ahead from the Department of Health and Well 9 became operational.

In less than a year’s time, in April 2010, after only 2600 hours of operation, the MagnaDrive shaft unit failed due to overheating from the bearings not being properly lubricated while it was running. The unit was repaired by Kirby Pump and Mechanical, Inc. and placed back into service in June. In August a second failure occurred and the unit again showed damage from overheating.

When the unit was sent back to MagnaDrive and inspected, the company stated there were no product defects and the reason for the failure was the city was not following a regular lubrication schedule to the unit.

Oakdale Public Works Director Joe Leach described the assembly as “a mess” when it was removed. He said the damage had affected the gears and shaft and believed that the shaft’s casing was not installed correctly.

MagnaDrive claims the warranty period started when the shaft installation was finished in January 2006. Amerine Systems claimed that the shaft installation passed its inspection by an outside firm hired by the city. With little recourse, the city is left with the repair costs.

Leach believes the warranty period should have begun in April 2009 when the well went operational but also feels the city waited too long in completing the environmental process.

“All issues would have come out in the first year of the warranty period,” Leach said. “The city didn’t complete the environmental process soon enough.”

Interestingly, Oakdale Maintenance Utilities Manager Jon Sterling said that MagnaDrive has revised its shaft design for lubrication since examining the Oakdale unit.

Leach said the incident serves as a learning experience to the city for which firms to use in the future and the risks of delaying projects.

Despite where the fault lies, or the lesson learned, the $73,000 needed to repair the well will likely be coming from the rate payers in the form of increased costs or a delay in the scheduled water meter replacement this year.