Q. Is the city water safe? I’ve been drinking it since I moved here almost seven years ago, with no apparent ill effects, but recently several people have expressed shock that I fill my glass straight from the tap. One was certain it’s unsafe. Are they right? – Nancy Hall
A. According to local water officials, it’s safe to drink up.
“We consistently meet or exceed all federal and state requirements. There are no problems or issues (with our water),” said Matthew Veeh, director of government and public affairs for the Long Beach Water Department.
On the surface, water seems like it would be a simple thing – get it from a source, send it though pipes to a house and you’re done. Well, it’s not that easy. In fact, it took two officials at the Long Beach Water Department to explain to me how it works in the city.
Veeh explained that Long Beach residents get a blend of water out of their taps – 60 percent groundwater and 40 percent imported. The foreign water is a mixture from the Colorado River and the state water project. The groundwater comes from under our feet.
The groundwater is pumped to the water department’s facility on Redondo Avenue near the airport where it’s treated. It’s then mixed with the imported water and sent to tanks on a hill near the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Redondo Avenue. After that it goes to customers.
But where did the reputation of bad water in Long Beach get started?
To explain this I needed a second water man – Tai Tseng, director of operations for the Water Department.
Tseng told me about an ancient redwood forest deep under Long Beach. He said the trees are about 800 to 1,000 feet under the city – unfortunately, that’s right where our groundwater is located. He explained that the trees sit in a portion of the aquifer, and when water soaks in the trees it leeches out the tannins and gives the water a yellowish color, like tea.
Before 1984, the Water Department removed the color with bleach. This gave the water a chlorine-like smell similar to pool water.
Today, the Water Department removes the tint with coagulants that absorb the color. Tseng stressed that no matter how the color is removed, it only affects aesthetics, not water quality.
“People have preferences,” Tseng said. “Maybe the water is not what they prefer when it’s compared to bottled water and some may translate that to not being safe.”
As far as safety, Veeh assured me the department tests the water for contaminants regularly – “weekly, sometimes daily,” he said.
Considering that Long Beach water costs about half a penny ($.0047) per gallon and Arrowhead spring water sells for about $1.30 a gallon, I’ll stick with the tap.
Train station update: A few weeks ago I wrote about an old train station in the 1400 block of San Francisco Avenue. The station was built downtown in 1907 and moved to its current location in 1936. Art Cox, the city’s superintendent of street maintenance, has confirmed plans are in the works to move the station to Willow Springs Park at Longview Point. They hope to move the building sometime in the next year.