Local News

Monday, Jan 27 2014 03:27 PM

Arvin turns on its taps after three days without

  1. 1 of 7

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Water has been selling briskly at the Vallarta Supermarket in Arvin as residents buy water and recover from a broken water pipe that contaminated the city's water.

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  2. 2 of 7

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Rocio Armijo feels her family was fairly well prepared when the water pipe in Arvin broke and contaminated the water. She was at Vallarta Supermarket in Arvin buying water for a birthday party Monday.

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  3. 3 of 7

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Valente Quintero was feeling the loss of business from having to close the meat market and taqueria portion of his business as Arvin recovers from a broken water line that contaminated the water supply in the city. Businesses are waiting for the OK to reopen businesses that had to close down because of the water contamination.

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  4. 4 of 7

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Luis Mendizabal, assistant manager of the Vallarta Supermarket in Arvin, says business has dropped at the store because the fresh meat and freshly cooked food area of the business has been closed because of the water contamination from a broken pipe in Arvin. He has also noticed an increase of liquid sales at the supermarket.

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  5. 5 of 7

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Workers at the Little Caesars in Arvin use the time the business is closed due to a water pipe breaking and contaminating the city's water to do some cleaning while they wait for the OK to reopen Monday.

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  6. 6 of 7

    By John Cox/ The Californian

    A crew from the Arvin Community Services District works Friday morning to repair a water main along the south side of Comanche Drive. The line burst Thursday night after a wind-blown tree uprooted and tore a hole in the plastic pipe. Workers had the line repaired by mid-afternoon Friday, but state health officials advised the utility's customers to boil water from their tap before drinking it.

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  7. 7 of 7

    By John Cox/ The Californian

    A crew from the Arvin Community Services District works Friday morning to repair a water main along the south side of Comanche Drive. The line burst Thursday night after a wind-blown tree uprooted and tore a hole in the plastic pipe. Workers had the line repaired by mid-afternoon Friday, but state health officials advised the utility's customers to boil water from their tap before drinking it.

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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

It'll be a while before the people of Arvin take clean tap water for granted.

For three days, some 18,000 people in the city had to boil water before drinking it or cooking with it. There were no restaurants open, only pre-packaged meat for sale at grocery stores and no working faucets at schools.

The public health warning that went into effect Friday afternoon ended about 2:30 p.m. Monday when state officials declared the city's tap water safe to drink.

So ended a community-wide headache the local water district traced to strong winds that toppled a tall tree Thursday night, rupturing a water main along Comanche Drive and causing damage estimated at more than $20,000.

Things began returning to normal soon after Monday's safety declaration as county health officials began inspecting and reopening restaurants.

But it wasn't soon enough for many.

Rocio Armijo, a 32-year-old mother of two toddlers, said the episode was "pretty scary." She said she suddenly realized how much she relies on clean water to keep her children happily hydrated with Mexican-style fruit drinks called "aguas frescas."

"We need our water," she said.

Some business owners had it worse than others. Those selling water, soda and pre-packaged food, for example, were able to keep the cash registers humming.

But butcher shops and restaurants were generally out of luck.

Valente Quintero, who owns an Arvin butcher shop and taqueria with his wife, Susie, said sales dropped off sharply over the weekend. He expressed impatience with public health officials who still had not declared an end to the ban on food preparation by early Monday afternoon.

"We're frustrated the business is (so) slow," he said.

Already there was talk among water officials, school administrators and business owners about what lessons could be learned from the ordeal.

Fernando Pantoja, manager of the local water utility, Arvin Community Services District, said his employees helped distribute 40 pallets of water, some of which came from city government.

But while water distribution went smoothly Sunday, the utility ended up running out the day before. What's more, the district has gotten an earful from people upset about not having access to clean water.

"This is something that overwhelmed us," he said. "If it happens again, we'll be prepared."

A skilled nursing facility, the 64-resident Evergreen Arvin Healthcare, got by fine, largely because it has a sister facility in Bakersfield that prepared and delivered food, administrator Amanda Moore said.

She said there was plenty of hand sanitizer and bottled water, but feeding everyone was tough.

"The food is challenging," Moore said. "It's much easier when you can cook it in-house."

Disruption was minimal at local schools, said Kathie Kouklis, assistant superintendent at Arvin Union High School, which was closed Friday but reopened Monday. She said water from the water district and other sources was more than sufficient.

Because the district could not cook on site, it brought in prepared food from a contracted service, which meant bean and cheese burritos Monday.

Next time the water goes out, though, she said the district may want to have more than two days' supply of food and water on hand, easier-to-find instructions on how to shut off the water at each campus and an accurate list of staff phone numbers to call in an emergency.

District Superintendent Michelle McLean said she expected operations to return to normal Tuesday, including having running water in faucets and food cooked on each of the campuses.

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