There is now a new challenge for rebuilding in Paradise, Calif.,– toxic drinking water
The drinking water in Paradise, Calif., has been contaminated with the chemical benzene. Previously in Paradise, 85 people died in the worst wildfire in state history, according to CBS San Francisco.
According to CBS San Francisco, officials said "they believe the contamination happened after the firestorm created a 'toxic cocktail' of gases in burning homes that got sucked into the water pipes as residents and firefighters drew water heavily, causing a vacuum in the system that sucked in the toxic fumes."
Officials said this may explain why benzene has been found in tests at multiple spots rather than from one source in Paradise, where 90% of the building was destroyed by the fire. Benzene has been linked to anemia and leukemia, according to CBS San Francisco.
Paradise Irrigation District officials said they took about 500 water samples, and they have found benzene 30% of the time, according to CBS San Francisco.
“It is jaw-dropping,” said Dan Newton of the state Water Resources Control Board, according to CBS San Francisco. “This is such a huge scale. None of us were prepared for this.”
According to CBS San Francisco, those who have assessed the problem say the water district may be able to clean pipes to some homes later this year, however, it will take two years and up to $300 million before all residents can safely drink, cook or bathe in the water from their taps.
1,500 of the town’s 27,000 residents are living in the limited number of surviving houses, according to CBS San Francisco. Water officials have warned them not to drink, cook, bathe in or brush their teeth with tap water and to only take quick showers with warm water. Those residents are living on bottled water deliver daily and water tank deliveries.
Norman Stein is a resident in Paradise. According to CBS San Francisco, Stein drives 15 minutes every week to the water distribution center and loads the his car trunk with bottles and which he then stores in his garage.
Stein and his wife disagree on if this posed a risk to their tap water. According to CBS San Francisco, she opened the sink tap to show visitors how clear the water is.
“I could feel an oily substance before. But it’s cleared up now,” she said. “This is good water.”