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Farmington Water Ruled Safe
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Tests performed on Farmington well water have determined that the water is safe, with no presence of E. coli in the system. The clean bill of health came back on Monday, July 20.

Residents of the community had been notified by Farmington Water Company officials on Friday, July 17 that the testing had to be done and the tap water should not be used unless it was boiled first. The official notice from the company urged the use of bottled water for such activities as teeth brushing, washing dishes, food preparation and making ice. Tap water could be used, but only if it was brought to a boil and boiled for one minute, then cooled before use.

The problem with the water turned out to be due only to low system pressure, but San Joaquin County Registered Environmental Health Specialist Adrienne Ellsaesser said that does create the potential for a dangerous situation.

"The system has been compensated with bacteria for many years," Ellsaesser said of the Farmington system. "They are in the process now of trying to get new well sites."

Periodic testing of the system is normal, but she said problems began to surface earlier this month.

"The system failed dramatically for bacteria a couple of weeks ago," she explained, with Total coliform Bacteria detected.

Total coliform Bacteria, Ellsaesser pointed out, are "free living organisms we're exposed to every day" and that type of bacteria can periodically show up in water systems. The more dangerous types of bacteria, which can cause illness, were not found in the Farmington system, with no traces of E. coli or fecal organisms.

"The south well is off line right now," Ellsaesser added. "The north well doesn't produce as much water."

That is actually what led to the low system pressure, with that pressure dropping to below 5 PSI.

"There was no air in the lines to keep it pressurized," she said of the aging system.

That opened up the possibility that contaminants could get in through pinholes in the pipes or bad connections. The warning notice was issued as a precaution while the water was thoroughly tested.

"We're very concerned about it, that's why we keep on it," Ellsaesser said of maintaining a close watch on the system and working with Water Company board members.

"This was just a precaution," she emphasized. "We wanted to make sure."

Water Company board president Les Strojan said he also wanted to make it clear to residents that there was never any danger, they were just being cautious and following protocol.

"We had a situation where our tank was waterlogged and the pressure dropped below 5 PSI," he said. "They had to do that (test the system) to make sure nothing was in there. There was never any evidence anything was in there."

Many residents, he said, probably were under the impression there was a problem with E. coli or other bacteria, but that was not the case. He also said the company's seven board members are "all working hard" to meet the community's water needs.

The Water Company does have a grant though the State's Revolving Fund Program and also received some USDA Rural Development funds to purchase land and begin the process of drilling new wells for the community.

Until that happens, however, Ellsaesser said there could be more problems in the future. If the system pressure drops again, residents may see dirt in the water or have very little water flowing from the tap.

"If people start experiencing problems, give our department a call," she said. "Speak with me or leave a voice message."

The county's Environmental Health Department can be reached at 468-0343.