State lifts boil-water alert in Poway, deems water safe to drink

December 8, 2019 0 By JohnValbyNation

POWAY, Calif. — 

A boil-water advisory in effect in Poway since Nov. 30, when discolored water was seen coming from taps in several parts of the North County suburban city, has been lifted after final tests confirmed the water was safe to drink, officials said.

The state’s Water Resources Control Board lifted the warning about 6 p.m. Friday and residents were notified quickly via numerous methods, including reverse 911 phone calls.

The action allows all restaurants, bars and other food-handling businesses in the city of about 50,000 people to reopen. Following the state advisory, the county’s Department of Environmental Health ordered them closed for public safety reasons, which was unprecedented in Poway’s history.

A few reopened over the last few days after obtaining temporary permits from the county that limited what and how food could be served. But most had remained dark for six days, leaving hundreds if not thousands of employees without a source of income.

Starting immediately, the county said, businesses can reopen after following some disinfecting and cleansing guidelines that include flushing their water lines for several minutes.

The lifting of the advisory also means all residents served by the city’s water system no longer need to boil their water before drinking or cooking. And distribution centers at City Hall and Lake Poway Park have now been closed after handing out hundreds of thousands of free bottles of water to residents.

“I’m thankful we’re back in business,” Mayor Steve Vaus said moments after the advisory was canceled.

“I’m thankful that all the folks at all the restaurants can get back to work. I’m going from here over to the Brigantine for an appetizer and then probably the Hamburger Factory for an entree.”

The problem came about Nov. 28 and 29 when 2 inches of rain fell. A 48-inch storm water pipe that runs beneath the city’s clear well reservoir near Lake Poway and next to a water treatment plant, backed up causing storm water to leak into the reservoir.

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Mud and residue then clouded the water as it was sent in pipes to homes. The state issued the advisory on the 30th in an abundance of caution until it could be sure the water was clean and safe. Numerous tests since showed no bacterial issues.

A representative of the state said two days ago that Poway will eventually be cited for what happened and be ordered to prepare redesign plans to make sure the clear well is no longer connected to the storm water pipe.

Sean Sterchi, San Diego district engineer for the state’s Water Resources Control Board division of drinking water, said modern regulations don’t allow for such connections, but the city’s facility was built in the 1960s before such requirements were in effect.

The city says the clear well and the rest of their water operation is routinely inspected by the state and never has any mention of a problem been made. Nevertheless, Sterchi said in an interview, now that the problem is known, it must be corrected.

A citation cannot be issued until an incident report has been submitted by the city to the state, officials said. Such a report must be filed within five business days after the end of the incident.

Jones writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune