A report released by the city of Poway is providing further detail into what caused a malfunction at its water treatment plant that allowed contamination of its potable water supply, leading to a Boil Water Advisory that disrupted life in the city for nearly a week.
Residents noticed discolored water coming from their faucets in late November and the city issued a Boil Water Advisory the next day. Residents were encouraged to boil tap water before consumption, and restaurants and food service companies within city limits were ordered to close until the advisory was lifted.
The advisory lasted six days.
Some businesses found ways around using the contaminated water and were granted special operating permits, but precious holiday season revenue and wages were forfeited by most owners and their employees.
Poway attributed the debacle to a faulty valve connected to a filtered water reservoir at the Lester J. Berglund Water Treatment Plant near Lake Poway. When the reservoir is at risk of overflowing, the flap opens and allows water to release into a nearby storm drain.
The city said in November that the valve somehow became stuck open, and its 16-page report released Monday revealed a piece of rope was the culprit. As the valve was stuck open, a bout of storms that soaked the region backed up the storm drain and contaminated runoff was allowed to spill back into the reservoir.
The contamination prompted days of water quality testing superintended by the state. Testing confirmed the water met state standards by day three of the advisory being in place, but the city had to wait for the state to review the results and lift the advisory, a city spokesperson said.
“Actually, the water is well within our standards for drinking. I’m still drinkin’ it, but the state, they’re a little more skittish. Sacramento works in strange ways, so we’re giving out water to make sure our folks are taken care of,” Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said.
The state was expected to issue Poway a citation for its water treatment facility being out of compliance, however, city officials say that the citation has not been handed down yet.
Poway Boil Water Advisory
The issue, according to the citation, was the reservoir’s proximity to the storm drain. But the citation came as a shock, according to the city, because regular facility inspections by the California State Water Resources Control Board over the last 50 years, including as recent as September, uncovered no similar compliance issues.
While the boil water advisory was in effect, the city set up water distribution stations at Lake Poway and Poway City Hall to give residents cases of clean drinking water.
In the first days under the boil advisory, the community took to social media to call for an impromptu Restaurant Week, asking San Diegans across the county to come and “eat big, tip big,” in the city once the advisory was lifted.