For health’s sake, don’t listen to the state

Last week, Butte County Public Health put out a press release giving residents in the region charred by the Camp Fire advice on how to protect themselves from contaminants in the water.

Frankly, we believe residents, especially those serviced by the Del Oro Water Co., should disregard it. Public Health encourages residents to review the testing advice of the state Department of Drinking Water, a division of the California Water Resources Control Board, whose testing protocols aren’t sufficient to gauge whether the water is safe to consume.

We know this not only from interviews with experts in water contamination, but also because we’ve reviewed documentation proving that the state’s recommendations fail water users.

As we reported last week (see “Clash of plans” Newslines), the town of Paradise recently chose to test its municipal buildings’ water based on the more strenuous guidelines recommended by the aforementioned experts. What the tests revealed is that its water is not potable—while it isn’t contaminated with benzene, it does contain other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at levels that surpass the state’s maximum standards for human health.

Eschewing the state’s advice was the right call—as it would not have detected those VOCs—and that’s exactly what everyone else should do, too. This isn’t the first time we’ve chided Public Health over its response to the water crisis. As noted in a March editorial (see “Better late than never,” March 21), it wasn’t until more than four months after the fire—following prodding from this newspaper—that the department issued its first press advisory explicity on that aspect of the disaster.

We were right to worry. As the CN&R recently reported (see “Cancer risks revealed,” Newslines, June 13)—based on documentation obtained through public records requests—the water contamination poses a significantly higher risk of cancer and other adverse health effects than has been reported to the public. The Department of Drinking Water sat on that info for months—and still has not released it publicly.

Given the state’s flawed track record, we urge the county to steer clear of its advice. This is no time for diplomacy. Instead, let’s turn to the experts. The public has an opportunity to meet with them today (June 27) at Paradise Alliance Church at two events: a forum with interactive demonstrations on sampling, testing and plumbing (4-6 p.m.) and another during which water-survey results will be revealed (7-8:30 p.m.).

We urge both those affected by the Camp Fire and Public Health to attend.