Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa officials are scrambling to figure out why the drinking water in a wildfire-ravaged section of Fountaingrove is contaminated with a chemical commonly found in plastics and gasoline.
A team of local water quality officials, regulators and experts has been working for 2½ months to understand how the volatile hydrocarbon benzene is getting into the water system and how to fix the problem.
They suspect the heat of the Tubbs fire, which incinerated 1,400 homes in the area, may have damaged parts of the water delivery system, such as plastic water pipes or meters, and caused the dangerous carcinogen to leech into the neighborhood’s water supply.
But despite hundreds of water tests, detailed mapping of the results and targeted equipment replacement, the problem still persists, leaving officials confounded and a $20 million replacement of the water system a real possibility.