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Backed-Up Storm Drain Caused Poway's Water Contamination

Water from a faucet at the public restroom at Lake Poway, Dec. 2, 2019.
Matt Hoffman
Water from a faucet at the public restroom at Lake Poway, Dec. 2, 2019.

Poway officials said Monday they believe backed-up storm drains caused the water contamination that led to the city's first-ever boil water advisory over the weekend.

The county health department ordered the closing of all restaurants in the city and residents are being advised to boil their tap water before drinking it or using it for cooking, city officials said.

Backed-Up Storm Drain Caused Poway’s Water Contamination
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

The recent rains caused the storm drains to back up into its water treatment facility, officials said. They added that crews are working around the clock to clean and flush the system, which may take two to five days before the water is declared safe.


"We are taking all of the necessary steps to address this situation," said City Manager Chris Hazeltine. "Restoring normal water service is our top priority."

VIDEO: Backed Up Storm Drain Caused Poway's Water Contamination, City Says

Poway Unified School District officials said schools will remain open.

"We wanted to reassure our families that we are aware of the city of Poway's boil-water advisory and that we have taken precautions so that our schools located in Poway will remain open on Monday," the district said in a statement released Sunday.

Residents first reported a brownish color in their tap water on Friday. On Saturday evening the city posted the advisory to boil tap water on its website.

Boiling water kills bacteria and other organisms. Residents are advised to not drink tap water without boiling it for one minute and letting it cool.


"Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation until further notice," the city advised.

A notice of closure on the door of a Poway restaurant on Dec. 2, 2019, because of the water contamination.
Matt Hoffman
A notice of closure on the door of a Poway restaurant on Dec. 2, 2019, because of the water contamination.

City staff tested the water at homes where the initial calls came from -- an area that spans from the Green Valley neighborhood to Garden Road. They found the water to be well within standards for chlorine residuals. However, because the discoloration appeared to be citywide, water officials notified the state Water Resources Control Board.

"Everyone’s affected by this everyone wants to be able to have safe water to drink," said Jessica Parks of the Poway Public Works Department. "You can shower in it. You can bathe in it. The rule is just don’t get the water in your mouth."

"I think Poway is doing an excellent job," said Chris Christensen, one of the 50,000 Poway residents who get their water from the city. "They’re doing all they can. This is a good reminder that things can happen."

The city set up a pickup location at Lake Poway. By 8 a.m., the city had handed out more than 900 cases of bottled water.

There is also concern that the tap water could be unsafe for animals.

"We have horses," Suzanna Jarvis said. "Not sure what we're supposed to do with them. We're not going to give them bottled water."

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