Thanks, local officials, for standing up to the state

Last week, when the CN&R spoke with Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter, we were pleased to note his loss of patience when it comes to state officials’ response to water contamination in the Camp Fire burn zone (see “Cancer risks revealed,” Newslines). We, too, have lost patience—and it was about time more local officials spoke up.

One of the most frustrating results of the Camp Fire response has been the mixed messaging going to the public—particularly those whose homes and businesses are still standing.

Beyond a boil-only notice in the days following the fire, some residents—those served by the Del Oro Water Co.—have been told their water is fine to drink, to bathe in, to swim in, despite known contaminants in the water system. Their neighbors to the south, in the Paradise Irrigation District, are getting a different story: Don’t drink the water until we know for sure it’s safe.

In the Del Oro service area, testing of standing structures is recommended solely at the kitchen sink and only for benzene, which state water officials maintain is a good benchmark for other contamination.

PID disagrees, as do water contamination experts from Purdue University brought in to consult on the problem. And the town of Paradise is following suit, having recently tested its standing buildings for a wide variety of contaminants and at numerous locations. Officials found contamination, too, though the State Water Resource Control Board is disregarding it.

Anyone living in the burn zone should question the state’s minimalist approach to the contamination issue, especially in light of its ignoring health data produced by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment that shows acute effects of high levels of benzene exposure over short periods of time, as first reported by this newspaper, and the fact it’s been mum on a specific result that showed 2,217 parts per billion of the cancer-causing chemical.

We applaud entities like PID, the town of Paradise and Supervisor Teeter for taking a more cautious route. Nobody wants Butte County to be the next Flint, Mich. This is people’s health, after all.