SoPas City Council Gets Preliminary Report on Discolored Cloudy Water

After complaints from residents that South Pasadena water was cloudy or discolored, the City Council asked for and received a preliminary report on the situation from public works officials that stressed the water is safe and the condition temporary.

Moreover, the condition will cease later this year, according to South Pasadena’s Water Operations Manager Anteneh Tesfaye, who delivered the preliminary report to the council at its May 2 meeting.

The cause of the discoloration is being attributed to water blending requirements to meet new state regulations regarding the continued elimination of 1,2,3 – Trichloropropane or 123-TCP from water supplies, according to Tesfaye. Historically, TCP has been used as a paint or varnish remover, a cleaning and degreasing agent, and was an impurity in certain pesticides. It is also used as a chemical intermediate in the process of making chemicals, and as an industrial solvent. TCP was banned in the 1990s from use, according to officials. However, over the years TCP traces have found their way into groundwater supplies.

“Drinking water is safe,” Tesfaye told the City Council during the preliminary report. “The water is safe. We are testing on a continual basis.”  Tesfaye also said in the interim public works officials have increased flushing water through the pipes. The discoloration occurs in areas of low water consumption and galvanized piping, Tesfaye told the council.

The water clarity is “dependent on the source blend of surface water and groundwater,” according to a prepared statement by city officials issued nearly two weeks ago. “The reports of cloudy and discolored water are a result of the introduction of Metropolitan Water District (MWD) surface water into the city’s water distribution system. Both surface water and groundwater supplies are approved water sources that meet or exceed State and Federal drinking water standards.”

Tesfaye told the council that whenever they get a complaint about the water, they investigate immediately and try to rectify the situation.

Those assurances, however, are not sitting well with residents, some of whom that say the water discoloration is a huge problem disproportionately affecting low-income residents.

Tesfaye did acknowledge that apartment buildings with older galvanized piping along with low-consumption “may observe the discoloration more frequently.”

“The Water Division staff has hand delivered notices to customers and provide information,” Tesfaye told the council. The council asked questions of Tesfaye about the water issue, but generally opted to wait to address the situation until a more comprehensive report is issued in a couple weeks. Councilmember Diana Mahmud, for example, questioned the state and MWD’s effectiveness in preparing for this blending challenge. Mayor Pro Tem Marina Khubesrian wondered if small filters you attach to your faucet would make a difference. Tesfaye said they would not.

The council is going to receive a more comprehensive report on the water situation at its next scheduled meeting on May 16.

In the meantime, city officials encouraged residents with water concerns to contact the South Pasadena Public Works Department, Water Division, at (626) 403-7240.