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Poway Officials Now Say Rope Caused Water Contamination

Poway city officials provided KPBS these photos to show a re-enactment of wha...

Credit: City of Poway

Above: Poway city officials provided KPBS these photos to show a re-enactment of what a rope found in the storm drain overflow system looked like, Jan. 7, 2020.

Poway water officials are now saying the entire town was without drinking water for a week in December because a rope got stuck in the city's storm drain system.

The rope got stuck in a flap, which allowed storm water to flow into already treated water, according to a report the city filed with the state. Officials do not know how the rope got there.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"It looks like somebody just left a rope that shouldn’t have been there and there was some negligence on the part of the city," said Mike Pasulka, owner of Players Sports Grill.

Pasulka's restaurant was one of nearly 200 Poway businesses had to shut their doors throughout the first week of December after the city issued a boil water advisory. He and others said their losses were significant.

"I would say $18,000 to $22,0000 (was lost)," Pasulka said. "As you may have heard we did pay our employees while we were closed."

New records obtained by KPBS Tuesday show that at least four water customers, including three businesses, have filed claims against the city asking damages ranging from $270 to $12,000.

Pasulka said he hasn't yet filed a claim, but plans to. He said his insurance is not giving him any compensation for lost income.

"I do have some loss of business interruption insurance and I filed a claim with them — they denied it as something that’s not covered under that policy," he said.

RELATED: Poway To Be Cited For Faulty Reservoir System That Contributed To Water Contamination

Other businesses we talked to are in the same boat.

"I think they’re frustrated still," said Poway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ed Franklin.

The chamber kicked off an “eat big, tip big campaign” in the city to help the restaurants make up for lost revenue.

"We’ve been getting a lot of good response from the restaurants," Franklin said. "They’re happy that we did something."

Businesses and residents in Poway have about five months to file claims with the city. The city said it will work as quickly as possible to review claims, but Pasukla isn't optimistic.

"I would anticipate they’re going to not pay the claims and deny them because if they go ahead and agree to then they have to pay every restaurant's claims — which would be the right thing to do," he said.

A state water official who previously indicated Poway’s water system was out of compliance with state regulations, said city water officials have submitted a report with details on what went wrong. The state is now reviewing that and will then determine if a citation or fine follows.

In a statement a Poway city spokesperson said it is working with the state on next steps.

"Consistent with state protocol, the city of Poway has provided the state with our incident report from the precautionary boil water advisory and we are currently waiting for it to be reviewed," the city said in a statement emailed to KPBS.

"Once that review is complete, we will work with the state on all action items to ensure that we continue to provide a safe and reliable water supply to our residents and water customers."

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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