Our Future After the Fire: Paradise water plan unveiled by Irrigation District

A plan has been unveiled by the Paradise Irrigation District that could bring free-flowing water for those who are living in the Camp Fire burn scar.

Posted: Apr 18, 2019 6:59 PM

PARADISE, Calif. - A plan has been unveiled by the Paradise Irrigation District that could bring free-flowing water for those who are living in the Camp Fire burn scar.

For Chris Young, having lived in Paradise for 60 years, currently not having water service is frustrating. Yet, it pales in comparison to other realities he now faces.

"We lost everything, my sister, my daughter," said Young. "I come by here and I get five cases of water a week. You don't have a choice. I just put up with it."

Those who did not lose their homes or businesses, or who want to rebuild in Paradise, will have to wait for clean and safe water to be restored.

"We're hoping that 50% of the standing homes will be cleared for potable service by the beginning of next year," said Kevin Phillips, the Paradise Irrigation District Manager.

Phillips said the agency is working in collaboration with a host of departments to craft a plan forward. The District will begin isolating each main distribution line, then testing for contamination. If contamination is found, that line will be turned off and eventually replaced.

"FEMA requires that you show damage to the structure for it to be replaced. And with contamination you can't see damage, you can't smell damage, you can only test for the damage of contamination," said Phillips on why they do not simply replace the entire system.

"Something like this has never happened before so we have a lot of unknowns," said Jackson Webster, an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering.

"What we're struggling with is contamination within the distribution system, and this came from melting plastics that are now stuck to the walls of the distribution pipes, slowly being released back into the water. You can't just flush water out and have it go back to being clean water, because it will continue to re-absorb contaminants into the new water," said Webster,

Phillips says monitoring and testing is the closest the Agency can come to answering an unknown.

"When we say this line is good, we want to certify this line is good and it's not good for today, but for tomorrow and through the years to come," said Phillips.

About long-term legal ramifications of deeming water lines safe to then have them turning out to be not safe, Phillips said that is something his team has discussed with Cal OES and FEMA. He insists that the Paradise Irrigation District will push for new lines in as many cases as possible to ensure public safety.

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