OCEANSIDE — The city wants residents to know its drinking water is more than safe, according to its recently released 2018 Water Quality Report.
According to the report, the city didn’t detect lead in its drinking water and is compliant with federal and state lead regulations.
The report lists all detected substances in the city’s drinking water, broken down by each of its three sources. The city tests for more than 90 different substances throughout the year.
According to Water Utilities Director Cari Dale, the city closely monitors its drinking water to “ensure the highest quality of water is delivered” to customers.
Oceanside imports 89% of its drinking water from lakes and rivers hundreds of miles away. The city buys most of its water supply raw (77% of its total drinking supply) from the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), then filters and disinfects that water at the Robert A. Weese Filtration Plant.
The SDCWA buys its water from the Metropolitan Water District, which imports water using a 242-mile-long aqueduct carrying Colorado River water from Lake Havasu and a 444-mile-long aqueduct carrying water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Both of the aqueducts end in Lake Skinner in Riverside County.
Oceanside’s second source of drinking water, which makes up about 12% of its total supply, is treated water bought from SDCWA that is blended with water from the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.
The remaining 11% of Oceanside’s water comes from the city’s Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facility, which treats brackish groundwater from wells in the San Luis Rey River valley.
City Council has set a goal for the city to provide 50% of its own water by 2030, using its new Pure Water Oceanside facility.
According to the report, Oceanside’s water supply from the Colorado River is susceptible to contamination from recreation, urban and storm water runoff, increased urbanization in the watershed and wastewater. The water from State Water Project supplies is also susceptible to contamination from recreation, wastewater and storm runoff as well as from wildlife and agriculture.
Additionally, the Oceanside’s groundwater source is susceptible to both sewer collections and agricultural and irrigation wells.
Contaminants that could be in the water and were tested for include viruses and bacteria, which could come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, livestock and wildlife.
The water is also tested for inorganic contaminants like salts and metals, which can be naturally occurring or come from sources like storm runoff, industrial wastewater, fossil fuel production and farming. Other contaminants that could be found in the water include pesticides, herbicides and radioactive substances.
Though small traces of metals like aluminum and copper were detected in samples of Oceanside’s water, the report emphasizes “the presence of these substances does not necessarily constitute a health risk.”
Drinking water, including bottled water, is expected to contain small amounts of some contaminants. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State Water Resources Control Board regulate the amount of contaminants allowed in public water systems.
Water Utilities Division Manager Rosemarie Chora explained that water in its natural environment could be exposed to various metals and minerals that are not harmful to people when consumed in small quantities. She added that some substances however, like lead, could be harmful when consumed even in small quantities.
Chora noted that while this report didn’t find any lead, past reports have.
“It really alarms people because they think there’s lead in the drinking water,” she said.
According to Chora, regulations require that the city collect lead samples from residents’ homes. If lead is found, there is a good chance it is because of faulty faucets or other plumbing fixtures.
Oceanside tests for lead every three years. Last year, the city took samples from 52 private homes and at entry points to the water distribution system. Absolutely no lead was found in those samples, according to the report.
Chora said there was a resident who had lead found in his water on his property who ended up changing his faucets to fix the problem.
Chora and the water department often spend a lot of time talking to customers concerned about chlorine and pH levels of the water, particularly those who have health issues.
Chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water, keeping it clear of any pathogens. Chlorine goes away over time, Chora explained, but trace amounts can still be found throughout the water system.
Drinking water samples cannot have more than 4 milligrams per liter of chlorine. According to the water quality report, the city’s chlorine detection average is about 2.6 milligrams per liter, with detection ranging between 0.04 and 3.5 milligrams per liter of chlorine.
The city recommends residents with compromised immune systems who may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the average person seek advice about drinking water from their doctors.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son