Santa Rosa Residents Seek Solutions for Water Contamination Caused by North Bay Fires

The city of Santa Rosa called for a public hearing following the contamination of a water system caused by the melting of plastic water pipes during the Fountain Grove fires, an incident that is expected to cost $43 million to repair.

At the meeting in city hall, Santa Rosa residents expressed their concerns, worried that benzene contamination may be bigger than reported.

Benzene is a chemical released by the melted water pipes that is known to cause cancer. So far, flushing, cleaning and replacing parts of the water system have failed to get it out.

"We have a team of 20 certified water samplers they’re taking around 175 water samples a day," said Emma Walton from the Santa Rosa Water Department.

The Water Department delivered the news to the city council Tuesday that five miles of water main need to be replaced along with 350 service lines, 70 fire hydrants and 210 vales.

They say 50 tests outside of the contaminated area have come up positive for benzene but they say it’s isolated to service lines and has not contaminated the water mains outside the specific area.

In the audience, a civil engineer who worked on the design of the water system said the city’s suggestion to replace the burned pipes with polyvinyl chloride pipes (PVC) might save money. However, he claims PVC burns and metal pipes don’t.

How the system will be repaired remains a question but what was asked most by residents at the public hearing was, "will there be water for the homes that are being rebuilt?"

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