Your Questions Answered: What Are The Current Water Conditions In Paradise? When Can We Move Home?

Feb 28, 2019

Volunteers search for remains at a mobile home park in Paradise, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 23. The Camp Fire destroyed the town.
Credit Kathleen Ronayne / AP Photo

What Are The Current Water Conditions In Paradise?

Listener Don asks: “When will we be able to drink the water in Paradise? What is left on the district’s “to-do” list and could work in some areas be completed first to allow repopulation or will we have to wait until the entire system is fixed?

 

For the answers, we turned to Kevin Phillips, district manager of the Paradise Irrigation District.

Phillips said that the system is still gathering data and determining the extent of issues.

“The water coming out of the treatment plant is good. It’s clean water, drinkable water. The contaminants are actually being found inside of the pipes themselves,” he said.

After being pressed, he said officials have set a “conservative estimate” of two to three years and hope the work can be completed sooner. The district had to find and seal off every service line leading to a destroyed home—before they could pressurize what remains and start testing. Now they must isolate contamination, flush lines and replace problematic service lines.

Phillips said water lingering in the lines for 72 hours tends to absorb concerning levels of benzene and other toxic compounds. With few homes remaining and little water being used, water is staying in the pipes longer.  

“Even if you are clear in your own line, you might be pulling other contaminants from other lines that have been soaking for longer periods of time that you might be pulling into your house or to your water system,” he said.  

Phillips said the district is organized into zones and restoration work will start in areas closest to the reservoir, then work downhill, so theoretically, the system could be ready in some areas before others.  

When Can We Move Home?

Listener Gregory asks: “When will we be able to move back to Paradise? I know it’s going to take time. Just looking for a realistic timeframe. I am not relocating.”

For the answer to this question we turned to Ursula Smith, public information officer with the Town of Paradise.

According to Smith, when people will return will vary with each person and what they plan to do.

“For those who want to move back in their RVs it will be dependent on when their properties are cleared of debris and then those that plan to build it’s also dependent on the debris removal process, and the permitting process, and getting their plans checked, and when they can get contractors to build the homes.”

She said there are people who are in Paradise and living in a home that survived, and that properties are currently being cleared of debris. She said once you have that certificate from Butte County Environmental Health you can start whatever process you’ll be pursuing for your personal situation.

“Some people have decided to bring manufactured housing, some people have decided to do modular, certain people are on waitlists, so it really, yeah, it will differ for everyone,” Smith said.

She said everything from the weather that’s affecting the debris removal process to the status of the water to available contractors are factors in the rehoming timeline.

“But the town is hopeful within a year people will be able to start moving back and the town will start the rebuild process,” she said.