Contaminated water a residual effect of Camp Fire


Photo credit: Natalie Hanson

One year after the Camp Fire, residents in Paradise have been using bottled water as their main source of water since water quality has plummeted from pollutants.

“One of the problems that happened when the fire came through is that it created compounds in the lines themselves that have now rendered the water in the lines and in the area undrinkable,” Mark Stemen, professor of geography at Chico State, said.

Tests by the Environmental Working Group from the Washington State Department of Health show that the tap water in Paradise was in compliance with federal health-based drinking standards. However, there are still 11 contaminants in the water which may cause cancer.

These contaminants are:

  • Bromodichloromethane

  • Chloroform

  • Chromium (Hexavalent)

  • Dichloroacetic acid

  • Radium, combined (-226 and -228)

  • Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

  • Trichloroacetic acid

EWG’s website mentions that legality does not ensure safety; getting cleared by the federal government does not mean that the water meets health guidelines. Although the water is legal under federal standards, it is still not potable.

Paradise Irrigation District issued a water quality advisory after the Camp Fire. Paradise residents are urged to avoid drinking their tap water and instead use only bottled water for things such as:

  • Drinking (including baby formula and juice)

  • Brushing teeth

  • Making ice

  • Food preparation

Residents are advised to not treat the water themselves. Due to the nature of water contaminants, boiling or disinfecting the water won’t make it safe to drink.

Additional warnings include:

  • Do not allow pets or livestock to consume tap water

  • Limit use of hot water

  • Limit shower time (use lukewarm water and ventilate area)

  • Use a dishwasher to wash dishes and use air dry setting

  • Wash clothes in cold water

  • Do not take baths

  • Do not use hot tubs or swimming pools

  • Limit use of water for clean up of properties and follow Butte County recommendations for protective clothing when on property (

Julian Mendoza can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JulianMTheOrion.