Regular water use restored in Dos Palos

10/21/2013 8:16 PM

10/21/2013 10:18 PM

After six weeks, Dos Palos residents can again drink the city’s water without boiling it, according to City Manager Darrell Fonseca.

“We did all the proper tests, the tests all came back clear – good water, safe to drink,” he said.

The city had been on an order requiring residents and restaurants to use bottled or boiled water for drinking or as an ingredient in meals since Sept. 7. Fonseca said the final tally is not in, but the project cost about $200,000.

Clogs from algae buildup slowed water treatment to a halt last month and set off the city’s recent water woes, according to officials. The city’s water treatment system could not keep up with consumption.

The algae blocked the filtration system, plugging up the siphon on one occasion last month. Dos Palos’ system siphons water from the California Aqueduct, about 17 miles from the city limit. Fonseca said a dive team cleaned the siphon’s screen.

The Merced County Department of Public Health and state Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management lifted the boiled-or-bottled order Saturday evening, Fonseca said.

Contractors began replacing the filtration system late last month. Fonseca said the system was in mostly good shape, but the bottom portion needed to be replaced. A filtration system is made up of layers of rock, gravel, sand and anthracite.

Fonseca said city workers flushed the system, chlorinated the water and flushed it again.

The Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint Unified School District made special arrangements to feed its 2,300 students during the six weeks the order was in effect.

From the beginning, Fonseca said, city workers tested the water five to seven times a day. Every report came back clean, he said.

“Every single test showed a total absence of bacteria, coliform and E. coli, which is the state standard,” he said.

Residents can return to regular water use, he said. “We have sufficient water and we have good water,” Fonseca said.

Officials had asked people who live in Dos Palos to refrain from any unnecessary use, such as washing a car or watering a lawn, while boiled-or-bottled restrictions were in place. Those uses can resume.

Fonseca said the city used the Merced County Emergency Notification System to let registered residents know Saturday night the order had been lifted, and the state Division of Drinking Water notified restaurant owners Monday.

Fonseca said Dos Palos will try to recoup the money spent on the filtration replacement by applying for emergency funding with the state.

“The fact that we’re able to apply for a grant to fund part of it,” he said, “is, I guess, the silver lining.”

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