MNEWS: Alma Mater is represented in the Camp Fire recovery


Widespread contamination
Paradise water contamination widespread, could affect home plumbing
By Meredith J. Cooper
This article was published on 02.28.19.

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Alfonso Magdaleno would love to reopen Celestino’s Pizza and Pasta in Paradise, which sustained damage but did not burn in the Camp Fire. A lack of potable water is holding him back.

“We do want to open up, but we want to make sure it’s done safely and properly,” he said by phone. “The town has already been through enough. We want to make sure we are in no way putting anyone in the public at more risk than they’ve already been.”

Magdaleno has been keeping a close eye on water updates from the Paradise Irrigation District (PID). One thing that worries him is that the warnings keep changing—first, there was a boil-only advisory, then benzene contamination was found so people were told not to drink the water at all. On Monday (Feb. 25), a new set of guidelines was released warning homeowners not to rely on filtration systems, that continued testing is necessary.

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The PID’s latest guidelines were released online after its board meeting last week, during which Whelton’s team, which includes engineers from Purdue and Manhattan College, presented its findings after studying the situation for the past month. They have extensive experience with widespread water contamination issues, like chemical spills, though none that mirrors what Paradise is dealing with. One thing that worries Whelton most is a lack of information being given to residents.

“People are just being left to fend for themselves,” he said.

While Whelton and his team are no longer contracted with PID, he said they are still very much invested in helping. They field phone calls from PID personnel and have offered advice via social media.

“People need help in their homes, where they live. We are trying to help them by gathering information from them,” he said. That information includes how people are testing, who is doing the testing, what they’re testing for and how often—plus the results of those tests.

Adequate testing is complex.

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