Water quality can be a concern for many, especially in some areas of the Central Valley where several contamination problems have been reported recently.
Last week, the California Department of Health Services and the Madera County Health Department issued an unsafe-water alert for drinking water supplied by Oakhurst Mobile Home Estates. Officials advised residents to not use tap water for drinking or cooking after discovering the water was possibly contaminated with fecal coliform, bacteria associated with animal and human wastes. As of Friday, the notice was still in effect. According to Erica Stuart, a spokeswoman for the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, it could take several weeks before the issue is resolved.
Also, earlier this month, residents in the Parkwood community, south of Madera city limits, were issued a “boil-water” alert after officials declared the water there unsafe because of a failure in the Parkwood water system.
Johnnie Baptista, Merced’s public works water division manager, said Merced has not encountered similar issues this summer, but he recommends residents become informed and educated about the water they are drinking.
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“We haven’t had any positive testing here,” Baptista said. “In the case we did, we’d have to do some re-testing to confirm. The state of California mandates what the reaction is depending on the condition and quality of water.”
By law, water is tested monthly, Baptista said.
“(In Merced), we have three people that are dedicated to the constant monitoring of water quality,” he said. “We monitor bacteriological contamination so closely that if something were to come up, we’d be on top of it and it would be handled right away.”
Baptista said one of the easiest ways to learn about water quality is to read the Consumer Confidence Report, a water quality report that is delivered to homes by July 1. The report, which is also available online on the city’s website, covers all the testing performed in the previous year, plus an explanation of substances that could be present in source water. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk, according to the report.
While many people trust the water purifiers to help clean their drinking water, Baptista explained that these only help to remove some bacterial contaminants and chlorine from water but won’t help treat serious water issues. For residents in search of more involved water treatments, the state Department of Public Health provides a list of registered water treatment devices on its website.
Another question may be about the impact that drought conditions will have on water quality, as low water levels could prompt issues with bacteria and nitrate contamination. However, according to Baptista, this is not something of immediate concern for the Merced water system.
“The drought is not going to affect water quality as it is going to affect our availability,” Baptista said. “If the drought is ongoing, and we’re talking double-digit years, then we’ll definitely have quality issues, but in a shorter term, I would say no – it won’t have much of an effect.”
Other resources available for more information on water safety are: the Environmental Protection Agency at www2.epa.gov; the American Waterworks Association at www.awwa.org; and the California Rural Water Association at www.calruralwater.org.