Tuesday, January 25, 2005

City water advisory

Updated: 5:35 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25 Mayor Phil Gordon's Comments - 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25 First I'd like to thank the public for being patient and understanding today. We don't have much new information to share with you now - but because we're coming to the end of the business day for most folks, we wanted to bring you up-to-date on the situation as it now stands. First, to quickly recap - and to "bottom-line" what I hope the message of the day is: The best information we have, and the best opinions of the experts, say that Phoenix water is safe. Our most recent test results show no bacteria levels beyond the federal standards - or beyond the norm, and show an increase in particulates which are not harmful. We continually test our water and are doing so again today. We fully expect those results to be normal -- and our hope is that we will all be back to drinking water and fountain drinks tomorrow morning. As I said earlier today, this is almost certainly nothing more than a large-scale inconvenience - undertaken out of extreme caution - because that's how we do business here. Protecting the public is always our number one priority. If we're right, and the water is fine, then we've been inconvenienced for a day. And if we're wrong (which I very much doubt) then we've done the prudent thing by boiling our water for a minute before we drink it. Candidly, before we asked people to take that extra step this morning, I drank several glasses of City water at our home in Central Phoenix - and I feel perfectly fine. I thank City staff and our partners at the County and the State for their help - and to the media for helping us get this message of caution out to the public today. I really believe that tomorrow morning, we'll get our latest test results back and will have some very good news to share with everyone. If residents have any questions or concerns, please call our hotline at 602-262-6251. Those phones will be staffed until 8 o'clock tonight - and will reopen again at 6 tomorrow morning. (Tuesday morning update below): About 2:30 a.m. this morning, the city of Phoenix learned that water leaving its Val Vista plant is violating some federal standards. This was caused by the increase of mud, sludge and other particulates in the water run-off from recent storms. The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority. And our water engineers have assured us that the risk of contamination is low. But in order to be extra cautious, we are asking Phoenix residents to boil their water or use bottled water until noon Wednesday, Jan. 26. This includes any water used for drinking, brushing teeth, food preparation, making ice cubes, and washing dishes. Residents can feel comfortable in showering in the water. We also are asking residents to conserve water by taking short showers and not watering their lawns as the city continues to refill its reservoirs with clean water. We also are working with all schools and have asked them to turn off their drinking fountains until further notice and boil their water, too. We are working with hospitals, the construction industry and many other agencies. Phoenix has five water treatment plants. Two of them currently are out of service because SRP is cleaning the canals, which is a normal occurrence this time of year. Another plant is out of service because of the recent storms. This leaves two plants that are operational and providing water to Phoenix residents, which are normally enough to provide water that is needed by our residents this time of year. If residents have any questions, they can call 602-262-6251 or visit phoenix.gov. More from Marciopa County on the boil-water advisory Customer Service Q & A on Turbidity Background: The city of Phoenix has issued a boiling water advisory for consumers to not drink the water from their tap without boiling it first. Phoenix's boil water advisory is precautionary. Water with extremely high solids content from the SRP canal system has entered a Phoenix water treatment plant. It is leaving the plant disinfected, but potentially cloudy. Sampling of the water is being done to confirm that the water is safe. Test results and an update on boil water advisory will be announced by noon on Wednesday, Jan. 26. Increased cloudiness may be observed, but disinfection with chlorine will be maintained. Q: What is the city of Phoenix advising customers do about potential cloudy water? A: The city of Phoenix has issued a boil water advisory recommending that consumers not drink the water from their tap without boiling it first. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and all food preparation until further notice. Showering with tap water is OK. Q: Why do we have to boil our water? A: The boil water advisory is a result of highly turbid water coming into the water treatment plant from recent storms. Turbidity is a measure of cloudiness in the water. Abnormally dry conditions over a long period of time before recent above average rainfall in a short period of time resulted in heavier than normal sediment flowing downstream and into the city of Phoenix's water treatment plants. Water should be boiled for at least five minutes. Q. Why is this situation centered on the Val Vista plant? A: The city operates five water treatment plants. The Verde Water Treatment Plant is currently offline because of Verde River storm damage. Our 24th Street and Deer Valley Water Treatment Plants are offline due to the annual canal maintenance on the Arizona Canal performed by Salt River Project. The fourth and only other plant besides the Val Vista plant is our Union Hills Water Water Treatment Plant, which uses the Central Arizona Project (CAP) as a water source. It has not been affected. Q: How is Phoenix communicating with its customers? A: Media interviews, customer service assistance and a telephone community notification calls are at the forefront of our communication efforts with residents. The city also is working with schools, hospitals and industry. Phoenix Water Customer Services can be reached at 602-262-6251. Updates also appear regularly on phoenix.gov Q: How many Phoenix water treatment plants are operational? A: Two water treatment plants are operational. A third plant was recently closed due to storm damage, and the two other plants are shut down due to maintenance activities in the SRP canal, which is a usual occurrence this time of year. Q: Who's responsible for this situation? A: Mother Nature is probably the only one we can point a finger to at this time. As you know, we've had several years of below normal rainfall, which creates very dry conditions, followed by a few months of way above average rainfall. The ground soaks up what it can, but this type of situation creates lots of sediment in the run off. Q: What is the city doing to rectify the situation? A: We've done a number of things so far. Each water treatment plant continuously monitors turbidity levels, and a measure is recorded every 5 minutes. When turbidity levels exceeded the amount allowed by federal guidelines, we notified Maricopa County Environmental Services, we increased the level of disinfection in the treatment process, and are diluting the muddy water with other water sources. We are using advanced treatment techniques to reduce the sediment in the water. Lime is being added to the treatment process which helps increase the efficiency of the treatment process. The sediment attaches to the lime and allows it to sink to the bottom to keep the sediment from going into the plant and to our customers. Q: What are the potential health effects of turbidity? A: Turbidity has no health effects and the risk of contamination is low. However, turbidity can interfere with the water disinfection process and provide a medium for bacterial growth. Turbidity can also indicate the presence of disease causing organisms. These organisms include bacteria, viruses and parasites, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea and associated headaches. People with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly may be at increased risk. These individuals should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. Q: Aren't the filters doing their job? A: Our treatment plant filters are designed for a certain amount of sediment in the surface water. Because of the recent storms, the amount of sediment coming into the treatment plant was much more than our filters are designed to handle. Q: Didn't you expect something like this to happen? A: Yes, we did anticipate and plan for increased sediment from the recent storms. However, the amount of sediment coming into our system was more than expected. Q: It's been several weeks since all the storms hit. Why did it take so long for the sediment to show up in your system? A: Actually, this is about the time we expected to see increased levels in sediment because it takes the water that long to flow downstream from northern Arizona and into our system. Q: Is this due to any type of security issue? A: No. This is strictly nature affecting our water treatment capabilities. Q: Will a reverse osmosis system help clear my water? A: We do not recommend that consumers rely on home RO units. Your filters may clog very quickly. We still recommend you boil all tap water, with or without an RO system.

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