A water treatment plant that’s been shut down since September resumed operations Wednesday to provide drinking water to thousands of homes and businesses in northeast Fresno.
The city’s Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility, which is capable of treating 30 million gallons of water daily, serves about 22,000 homes in an area bounded roughly by Blackstone, Willow, Copper and Herndon avenues. The plant was closed in September for the Fresno Irrigation District to perform maintenance on Enterprise Canal, which carries water from Pine Flat and Millerton lakes to the plant.
Water from the plant has been associated with discolored water coming from the taps of homes with galvanized pipes.
Water from the plant has been associated with discolored water coming from the taps of homes with galvanized pipes; differences in the chemistry and characteristics of water from the plant and pumped groundwater are believed to have contributed to the release of rust from galvanized pipes in some northeast homes since the plant opened in 2004.
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Scattered reports of problems went largely unnoticed by upper-tier utility officials and leaders at City Hall until January 2016, when social media postings about the issue caused the number of reports of discolored water to surge to more than 2,000. Testing revealed the presence of toxic lead coming from some faucets in several hundred homes at levels above allowable federal levels.
The problems are at the heart of a lawsuit filed in September as a potential class-action claim against the city by several affected residents. No trial date has been set.
The seasonal shutdown of the plant also allowed more time for experts hired by the city to conduct extensive tests on samples of galvanized pipes collected from homes in an effort to adjust treatment strategies at the plant to bring the water chemistry in line with groundwater supplies that for years were the sole source of drinking water for Fresno homes. By adjusting the water treatment, the city hopes to reduce the potential for the treated water to react with and dissolve deposits of rust and scale that accumulate inside galvanized pipes, causing discolored water from faucets.
Homes in northeast Fresno have been served by groundwater during the plant’s shutdown. The city’s Public Utilities Department is advising residents that they may notice some discoloration from switching back to treated surface water, and suggested that customers run their taps until the water runs clear before using it.