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Environment

Oceanside Officials Counter Lawn Care Firm's Claim On Drinking Water Quality

Ground was broken for Oceanside's new pure water treatment plant Feb. 19, 2020.
Erik Anderson
Ground was broken for Oceanside's new pure water treatment plant Feb. 19, 2020.

City officials in Oceanside described their drinking water as consistently "high-quality, safe and reliable" Wednesday in the hope of reassuring residents after a lawn care company ranked Oceanside's water at 198 out of 200 cities nationwide.

Rosemarie Chora, the city's water utilities division manager, said a March 23 report from LawnStarter "hit big" as residents expressed alarm on social media.

Based in Austin, Texas, LawnStarter vets gardeners and pest control companies and connects them online with homeowners in about 120 cities nationwide, according to its website. It dinged the city in multiple ways.

"In every category, we disagreed with their findings," Chora said. "We had a good dialogue with them. They actually agreed with our statements about what they published and they were going to go back and recalculate. ... Even in their own criteria we would not have ranked that low had their data been accurate."

LawnStarter cited rule violations for which there is no record — but apparently did not consider publicly available government data on drinking water quality. It gave prominence to customer satisfaction ratings that were not statistical — and to the share of a city's residents who lack kitchen plumbing, which has no impact on drinking water quality.

The company did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

The drinking water report was still available on LawnStarter's blog on Wednesday, along with similar reports ranking U.S. cities for hiking, pizza, outdoor employment and vacation home ownership.

The last time Oceanside's water system violated state or federal regulations was on Oct. 7, 2013, Chora said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited the system for losing communication with the computer equipment that monitors water quality — just after midnight for about seven hours. During the lapse, a trained and licensed operator monitored water quality manually every 15 minutes as required. There was no change in quality, Chora said.

Oceanside gets about 90% of its water from the San Diego County Water Authority and the rest from its own Mission Basin Aquifer.

The city said in a statement released Wednesday morning that it treats all its water at its own plants using different processes for each type.