Environmental pollution concerns come to forefront
Reports that the state finds El Dorado Irrigation District's drinking water system primitive, outdated and an avenue for hazardous pollutants sent El Dorado County residents scrambling for more information Wednesday.
The message that pregnant, elderly and sick residents should boil their water or buy it bottled was buried in fine print in the 28,000 notices mailed in September to EID customers. Dozens of residents called EID offices Wednesday after The Bee obtained a copy of a state report showing photographs of manure piles, animal carcasses, mats of algae and other contaminants in and near EID's open reservoirs.
"That article made me a firm believer that I'm not crazy," said Sue Reimer, who was seven months pregnant in 1996 when she was diagnosed with giardia, a water-borne virus that causes intestinal problems. The El Dorado engineer said she was drinking only EID water -- and lots of it, at her doctor's suggestion.
There's no confirmed connection between EID's water and illness in El Dorado County, county officials say.
The problem at EID, state health officials say, is that after the district filters water drawn from the American River, it stores the water in small reservoirs open to the elements.
Most other water districts use closed steel or concrete tanks. Only a few other California water districts currently store treated water in open reservoirs, including those in McCloud, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria and Los Angeles. None of those has as many as the 11 used in EID.
The El Dorado reservoir water consistently meets state health standards on bacteria, EID officials say, because the district constantly bubbles chlorine from nearby tanks into the reservoirs and sends the water on to homes. But they admit their open reservoirs expose the water to contamination by disease-causing agents...