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Faulty valve door in water treatment facility causes precautionary boil water advisory in Poway

All local restaurants and food facilities were ordered to stay closed by the San Diego County Department of Health until the issue is resolved.

POWAY, Calif. — The State of California says they plan to cite the city of Poway after an investigation showed faulty and out of date infrastructure that lead to contaminated drinking water. 

The citation comes after the City of Poway said they know what caused a precautionary boil water advisory to be issued this weekend. They say a storm drain backed up into the water treatment facility's clear well reservoir. Mayor Steve Vaus said, "We found that we had a faulty valve door, actually something got stuck in there and let some muddy water in from the rain runoff."  

The precautionary boil water advisory continued in the city of Poway on Tuesday. According to the city's website, it's believed the recent storm possibly compromised the potable drinking water system. However, that isn't stopping some people from drinking tap water.

As a precaution, the city advised Poway residents to boil tap water or use bottled water for drinking or cooking purposes until further notice. 

As of Tuesday, the city has made 400,000 bottles of water available for distribution to residents and will continue to provide water during the precautionary boil water advisory.

According to the city's website, in anticipation of the upcoming storm, and to ensure the safety of the water supply, city staff will be performing a complete inspection at the water treatment facility.

"I made coffee with water out of the tap and forgetting, and since then, I've been boiling or drinking bottled water," said John Grisley of Poway.

All local restaurants and food facilities were ordered closed by the San Diego County Department of Health until the issue is resolved.

On Sunday, an update said city staff believe they have isolated the area affected and the city is working to resolve the issue. They said they are awaiting the results of new water samples sent to a lab. 

“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.”

Crews on Sunday went through the lines and isolated the problem between the clearwell and distribution area. Officials said there is no timeline on when it will be fixed. 

An update of the city's website at 5 p.m. on Sunday read in part

"Per the State of California requirements, the city continues to test water and has found that the chlorine residuals meet standards. Staff is also continuing to inspect the clearwell at the water treatment facility, which has been identified as the location from which the water quality questions arose. The city is not able to rescind the precautionary boil water advisory until the state is satisfied with testing results."

The technical name of the issue is turbidity - basically, meaning the water is not clear. The USGS explains the issue and health concerns on their website saying:

"If not removed, the causes of high turbidity can promote regrowth of pathogens in the water, leading to waterborne disease outbreaks."  

On Friday, some people in Poway noticed their water was discolored. City staff tested the water at homes where the initial calls came from on Friday. Since the discoloration appeared to be citywide, water officials notified the State Water Resources Control Board of the situation and everyone agreed the boil-water advisory was in the best interest as a precautionary measure.

Jessica Parks with the city said they've tested the homes that complained and found the water to be well within standards. In fact, Mayor Steve Vaus is still drinking tap water as of Monday.

"I never stopped drinking the water," said Vaus. "My horses, my dogs - they're all drinking the water."

While there may not be health hazards now, if left untreated, there is the potential for health risks. 

The Poway Unified School District kept schools open on Monday despite the advisory. The district handed out bottled water and hand sanitizer. They also cooked school lunches off campus using a safe water supply.

Parks says the city is actively working to get things back on track.

"We know that there was infiltration from rain water into our distribution center and we've isolated it down to the clearwell," said Parks.

The city of Poway provides water service to about 50,000 residents. This is the first boil-water order issued in the city's history. .

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.

Click here for additional information from the city of Poway. Sign up for emergency notifications here or download the SD Emergency app here.

City staff plan to hand out bottled water at both Lake Poway and City Hall on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.