Among Concerns about Yellow Water Answers Arise

Here’s what you need to know if your water is brown or yellow

PHOTO: Courtesy | | Some residents came to a City Council meeting earlier this month complaining that water coming from faucets in their residence was either brown or yellow in color. Samples of what they are experiencing were placed in plastic bottles.

In recent weeks, some South Pasadena residents have complained to city officials regarding discolored water coming from faucets at local residences.

Earlier this month, a group wanted answers from City Council members, who were sympathetic to the concerns and anxious to get the situation resolved.

Following the meeting, Kristine Courdy, PE, LEED AP, the acting deputy public works director for the City of South Pasadena, was asked about the brown or yellow water that some residents are noticing.

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The following is what she had to say:

Can you give me some sense how widespread this problem is – the discolored water in the city?

The discoloration issue has affected a small percentage (roughly 1 percent) of the city’s 6,200 water customers. The effects are predominately observed in dwellings with older, galvanized iron piping located near dead-end water mains. Even though only a small percentage of water customers have been affected, even one incident is too many. The City is responding quickly to every individual customer concern.

How many letters and or inquiries about the discolored water have come into the city?

To date the city has received 79 phone calls and written correspondences regarding the discolored water.

Why is the water discolored, brown or yellow coming from faucets in the city?

In March, the City switched from its usual groundwater supply to water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). The City has used MWD water previously with no discolored water issues. However, it appears that the different but well-accepted treatment used by MWD is reacting with some City and customer pipes, resulting in iron buildup within the pipeline entering the water supply. Iron in water is not a health threat according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, the City fully acknowledges that discolored water is not acceptable, and we are working to address the issue.

What is being done about it?

The City is responding quickly to all customer calls and concerns, within a day or sooner. The City has hired a water quality and treatment firm to investigate, test, and identify the causes of discolored water and find solutions for immediate implementation. In the interim, Public Works is conducting water quality field tests in affected residences to ensure water is disinfected adequately and safe to drink. Staff is strategically flushing the public water system in areas of low water use, where water may stagnate, or at dead-end areas of the water main. The City is upgrading galvanized pipes to copper. In multi-family dwellings, Public Works is engaging property owners and landlords to determine if additional steps are needed within those buildings.

The City is also moving forward quickly with bids for construction of a water treatment facility that will allow South Pasadena to return to using groundwater for the majority of its supply. This is expected to fully eliminate the discoloration by January.

When will the problem be fixed?

 The water treatment facility is expected to be completed and in use by January. In the meantime, the City is addressing the discoloration issue on a case-by-case basis. In most cases, a brief flushing of the water pipes (10-30 seconds) early in the day is all that is necessary to clear the water for that day. The City will continue to conduct field testing. As we receive customer calls, our water operations team responds within a day or sooner.

Is the tinted water safe to drink?

All water quality tests conducted to date meet State and Federal standards. The City continues to collect additional samples and data to ensure the water remains safe. It is recommended that residents flush until the water is clear.

How do people flush their systems if they notice their water is discolored?

At home, most residents experiencing this issue should be able to clear the discoloration by running their faucet for under a minute. For residents experiencing discoloration, Public Works staff are dispatched to show residents how to flush faucets effectively and to collect samples for testing.

What should people do if they notice their water is discolored?

We encourage all residents who are experiencing discolored water to contact the City’s Public Works Department, Water Division, at (626) 403-7240.