Water Quality: San Lorenzo Valley District Explains Do-Not-Drink Order

How safe is San Lorenzo Valley’s water right now?

350 homes in San Lorenzo Valley are without water, due to the CZU fire. PHOTO: SAN LORENZO VALLEY WATER DISTRICT

With nearly half of the CZU Lightning Complex fire contained, the terrain around it has begun to cool. But the San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) does not know when officials will resolve outstanding water quality issues after the heat of the fire destroyed several miles of water supply lines.

SLVWD Water Treatment and System Supervisor Nate Gillespie said on a community Zoom call Thursday that he didn’t know when the water would be safe to drink in all areas of Boulder Creek.

“This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.

Currently, there are 354 homes in the district without water, mostly in the area of Big Basin Way and West Park Avenue. SLVWD Interim Manager Rick Rogers said the district will restore service to all remaining customers by Saturday, Sept. 12.

Meanwhile, a do-not-drink order has been issued to 3,197 homes in the district. An SLVWD memo tells water customers affected by the do-not-drink order that they should use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, making ice and food preparation. Additionally, the district warns that boiling, freezing, filtering, adding disinfectants, like chlorine, and letting water stand will not make the water safe in the affected areas.

Rogers said the district is working with the county to provide bottled drinking water. Customers may pick up one or two cases of water a day at the district’s operation’s building, located at 13057 Highway 9.

Also, Rogers said the fire destroyed lots of infrastructure, including 7.5 miles of the district’s raw water supply lines—at least some of which were made of HDPE plastic and ran above ground.

Finance Manager Stephanie Hill said the district has $3 million in reserves to help finance the start of emergency repairs. She said district officials are working with FEMA and the California Office of Emergency Services to secure emergency funding for repairs.

Water district officials wouldn’t conclusively say whether the water is safe to use for bathing and showering for customers affected by the do-not-drink order. Gillespie urged customers to err on the side of caution if they were at all concerned about the water quality. On the Zoom call, some community members, including former Santa Cruz County Supervisor Joe Cucchiara, wanted to know why the district didn’t issue a do-not-use order and tell customers that they shouldn’t use the water at all.

Rogers said the district was dealing with the state Water Resources Control Board, which is the responsible agency in this field and that the district was following their processes and timelines.

“It takes a little time,” he said.

The district will post a full video of Thursday’s meeting on slvwd.com.

Follow continuing in-depth fire coverage here and in our live blog.

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