The water system in Paradise , California was badly damaged by the Campfire of 2019 and will take several years to repair the entire system.
I gathered information to help people with fire-brain make better informed decisions. I’m not an expert on water quality and testing. Much of the information below came from the county, local water agencies, local labs and a water quality product certification organization called NSF. Let me know if I need to correct anything shared.
NSF is an independent certification company focusing on ensuring public health, safety and environmental quality. Of the wide scope of work they do, they offer very good information relevant to water safety (water testing and products) NSF certification requires regular on-site inspections of manufacturing facilities and regular re-testing of products to ensure that they continue to meet the same high standards required to maintain certification over time.
The information can be summarized as follows:
- Find Out What is In Your Water
- Select Products Based on Contamination Reduction Claims
- Obtaining Water for Storage Tanks
- Picking up Water or Bottled Water Delivery
If your are on public water request your public water quality report. This is known as a a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). In a post-disaster situation this may not be possible to obtain due to the time and resources required for repairs. In that case you may want to consider having your water independently tested.
If you are on private well, you will want to check with your local county environmental health department to determine what the prevalent contaminants are that they recommend you screen for in your local area.
- Butte County Environmental Health (contact for water and septic) (530) 552.3880
This is what I was told most people are testing for:
- Bacteriological (Total & E.Coli) – test if on well.
- Heavy Metals (breakdown of pipes or present in soil) – test if on well.
- Volatile Organics (benzene and 49 other compounds) – test if public or if your system exposed to high heat because degradation of plastic pipes causes contamination.
Then you will want to contact your local lab because there could be harmful bacteria or chemicals that you cannot see, smell or taste could be present. I found 2 labs in Butte County and they said they shared the following advice
- Bacterial water tests should be conducted twice a year. If your home was unused in the disaster zone for a month, it should be tested and cleaned due to water stagnation. Here’s instructions on treating your well water system. I’d probably do this and then test, but check with the lab before doing this. (CLICK HERE FOR INSTRUCTIONS)
- Volatile Organic Compounds and Pesticides tests should be conducted at least once every three to five years
- Nitrates and Metals tests should be conducted at least once every five years.
Water quality tests should always be conducted by a professional, state certified laboratory. Here are the 2 labs that are certified by the state:
- Basic Laboratory, Inc, 3860 Morrow Lane, Suite F, Chico, CA 95928, (530) 894-8966, m-f 8-5
- Fruit Growers Laboratory, 563 East Lindo Avenue, Chico, CA 95926, (530) 343-5818
Follow the lab instructions on collecting the sample properly to obtain the most accurate results.
- For example, if you are collecting a water sample for lead or copper testing, the recommendation is to let the water sit overnight in the pipes and take a “first draw” water sample – meaning fill the sample bottle from the kitchen tap prior to running any water for the day.
- A second example would be for a coliform bacteria sample. To collect this type of sample, remove any screen from the water faucet. There is typically a recommendation to run the water prior to filling the sample bottle.
- These samples need to be kept cold so you should take the sample directly to the lab or keep it in the refrigerator until it can be mailed in or dropped off. Remember to closely follow the instructions for each test you choose to have analyzed.
Here’s the complete sampling instructions I found based on “EPA 1669 Sampling Method”
Here’s some information from one of your local labs on well testing:
Once you know what contaminants are in your water, you can determine what your treatment solutions are. There is not a one size fits all solution for reducing contaminants so look at the contaminant selection guide for answers to your situation.
This page will help you understand what kind of technology may work to treat the issues you may find in your water. (CLICK HERE)
There are many options for water treatment which can be characterized as follows:
- Filters (whole house, drinking water and shower units)
- Reverse osmosis systems
- Water softeners
- Distillation systems
- Ultraviolet disinfection products and microbiological purifiers
They range from whole-house systems that treat all the water in your home, to filters for specific areas such as the kitchen faucet, to more portable solutions such as a water pitcher or even countertop filters. Some reduce only one contaminant while others reduce many.
Be sure to understand the maintenance required for your treatment system. Nearly all filtration systems use a filter media that will need to be replaced on a regular basis. They typically use carbon, charcoal or a blend of filter media to help reduce impurities. Be sure to include the ongoing cost of replacement filters in your final budget for a home water treatment solution.
Point-of-use (POU) systems treat the water where you drink or use your water, and include water pitchers, faucet filters and reverse osmosis (RO) systems.
- Personal water bottles
- Pitcher, dispenser or pour-through filters
- Faucet mount filters
- Under-the-sink or plumbed-in systems
- Under-the-sink systems piped to a separate faucet type
- Plumbed-in to separate faucet systems
- Refrigerator filters
Whole-house systems treat the water as it enters a residence. They are usually installed near the water meter (municipal) or pressurized storage tank (well water). Whole-house treatment systems include UV microbiological systems, water softeners or whole-house filters for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates.
The following links should be helpful in determine product selection:
- Testing Procedures for Decontamination Products – This contaminant list gives you an idea of what filters can potentially remove. (CLICK HERE).
- NSF Standards for Water Treatment Systems – NSF certifies drinking water filters to standards applicable to each type of treatment option. This link helps you understand the national voluntary standards to establish safety and performance of the products you use. You don’t need to review this unless you want to go down a rabbit hole and spend a lot of time on education. This section will help you know what type of certification to look for on the product you purchase. (CLICK HERE)
- Product Label and Literature Claims -= Basically this provides info about contaminant reduction claims, usage restrictions and filter change requirements. Such information is either on packaging, the product data place of equipment or on a performance data sheet provided by the manufacturer. (CLICK HERE).
- Water Treatment Systems Certification Process – NSF certification includes: (1) The contaminant reduction claims shown on the label are true. (2) The system does not add anything harmful to the water. (3) The product labeling, advertising and literature are not misleading. (CLICK HERE)
- Changing Water Filters – An important factor in your decisions. (CLICK HERE)
Some merits plastic versus metal tanks:
- Plastic Tanks: PRO (doesn’t leach metals into water, cheaper than metal) CON (likely to be destroyed or damaged in high heat)
- Metal Tanks: PRO (more resilient in fires, won’t leach VOCs into water) CON (more expensive, might be a tool for fire suppression)
As a general rule, I think only businesses are getting permits from the county or city to install water tanks. Residences seem to be getting them too, but aren’t getting permits. I would recommend contacting a local water delivery supplier or plumber if you wish to pursue this. You can check with the city or county environmental health, but so far this is all I know. (CLICK HERE)
Other than that, another helpful tip is to determine the size of tank you will need by reviewing your previous bill. Look for cubic feet of water used to determine average use. You will probably conserve more in your new situation.
In addition to your local agencies, these are pretty good links about emergency water:
- Explanation of Water Quality (bottled or delivered) (CLICK HERE)
- Emergency Drinking Water: Of note boiling water destroys most bacteria, cysts and viruses but will not remove toxins present from heavy metals or volatile organic compounds. (CLICK HERE)
- Sanitation in Disaster Situations This article covers hand washing and home sanitation. (CLICK HERE)
CLICK HERE for service provider information.
Almost all content on this website is ORIGINAL research based on thousands of hours of work over the past 4 years post disaster… for FREE! Please credit accordingly, by referring back to this website. Tips welcome, but not required and words of kindness are always appreciated.
~*~ Updated Jan. 30, 2019 ~*~
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