Preliminary Water Safety Results are In; Residents Still Waiting for Short Term Solution

Charles Rajjio
Photo by Harry Yadav

After the number of formal complaints reporting discolored and or odorous water at South Pasadena residences more than doubled in the last two weeks to 79, members of South Pasadena’s Water Division late last week began to travel to residents’ homes to test whether brown and yellow water coming out of South Pasadena taps meets state and federal standards for safe drinking. The results of the City’s tests have thus far been “very encouraging,” according to the City’s new public information officer, John Pope.

“There are no health risks so far in the areas tested,” Pope said Wednesday afternoon. “The City will continue to test homes upon request, but to this point the results confirm that it is a discoloration issue with no health risks. Meanwhile, [City staff] are doing everything we can to look for short term solutions to address the discoloration.”

Roughly a dozen homes had been tested as of Wednesday afternoon, Pope said, before urging residents to continue reporting their discoloration issues to the City. “If we get a call, we will respond to the problem within 24 hours,” he said. “We are continuing to test residents’ water.”

Diagnosing reports of water discoloration in South Pasadena homes has become a top priority for the City in recent weeks, as the number of complaints and the amount of attention the issue has garnered have escalated. Approximately 15 concerned residents attended last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, which featured a nearly one-hour presentation and analysis of the discoloration problem by the City’s Public Works Department and an expert consultant. Seven of those residents spoke before council during public comments.

Vu Nguyen
Photo by Harry Yadav

“I’m happy to hear you are going to be testing the water but I wish you had tested it two months ago,” Jessica Dawlaty, the first resident to speak, said. Holding a sample of brownish water taken from her home, Dawlaty expressed frustration that the City was not able to foresee potential water quality issues resulting from a state mandate that lowered the acceptable level of 1,2,3 –Trichloropropane (1,2,3 – TCP) to 5 parts per trillion. The mandate caused South Pasadena to begin blending street water from the Metropolitan Water District with ground water from the city’s wells. It is assumed that this blending has created more corrosive water, water that reacts with either the city’s water mains or residents’ pipes resulting in higher iron oxide contents that may be changing the water’s color.

“I know the regulation didn’t go into effect until January, but you should have seen that this was coming,” Dawlaty said. “Saying you didn’t have time to prepare is a bit disingenuous.”

Charles Rajjio, one of a number of Bank Street residents experiencing brown water at their homes, stressed the urgent need for an immediate solution.

“You are asking us to live until mid-December without being able to wash our white clothes or drink our water while we wait for a potential solution,” he said, referencing the projected date of construction for a wellhead treatment facility that would allow the City to return to exclusively using groundwater, thereby remedying the discoloration. “Nothing that has been presented here tonight has addressed a short term solution.”

Rajjio pointed out that flushing his system, the short term advice the city had offered him to that point, has been unsuccessful and costly. 

A week later, the City is still working on finding an immediate solution.

“It is premature at this point to set a deadline for when we will have a solution,” Pope said Wednesday, “because we are in the testing phase. But this is a top priority for the City. We do want people to know we are working aggressively to find an answer.”

Vu Nguyen, who also spoke at last Wednesday’s meeting, left feeling like his concerns were addressed, but not in any way resolved.

“I feel conflicted, like it seems that they are working on a solution but it won’t be happening soon,” he said.

There is not a solution at this point, Pope said, “but the City is encouraged by the safety of the water we have tested thus far.”