Water officials say Fresno violated law in failing to report city water issues

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The problems with rusty water first surfaced in 2004, but the city failed to notify the states water quality agency of the problem until this year. (KFSN)

The city of Fresno appears to have violated state law by not reporting water quality problems in northeast Fresno.

The problems with rusty water first surfaced in 2004, but the city failed to notify the state's water quality agency of the problem until this year.

Because of the rusty water, the city started handing out bottled water to half a dozen homes in 2004. Now, the problem appears to have spread to hundreds of homes, leading to expensive repairs.

It wasn't just the rust, but the lead in the water that prompted the Micheli family in northeast Fresno to replace all of the plumbing in their home.

The work, involved ripping out walls and replacing metal pipe with plastic is almost done but it's been an ordeal.

"If somebody would have told me what it's like to go through a replumb I would have thought twice," resident Karen Micheli said. "I still would have done it but maybe move out for three weeks."

The job is expected to cost over $10,000. It's a route a few homeowners have taken.

Micheli believes the city's corrosive water destroyed the pipes. The city's public works director Thomas Esqueda says the city is pumping more anti-corrosive chemicals into the water to better coat the pipes.

"Based on that quality of the pipe we want to get some calcium in there to coat it isolate it from the water as it's currently made available," he said. "Should reduce the color and our goal is to reduce the lead, or primary goal is to get after the lead."

The city claims it only became aware of the widespread problem in northeast Fresno in January when residents started posting complaints on social media.

But the city actually received complaints back in 2004 and started providing bottled water to homes with rusty water. But they failed to notify the state agency in charge of drinking water there was a problem.

"That's correct," Kassy Chahaun with the Water Resources Control Board said. "There was a breakdown in communication if there were reports being submitted to the city dating back to 2004 those reports were not submitted to the state."

Chahaun says the failure amounts to a reporting violation, but says since the city employees who should have reported the issue are no longer employed, no enforcement action is being taken, but the city is now working with the state to remedy the problem, which could have been addressed years ago, if the city would have reported it to the state.

Karen Micheli feels the city has some explaining to do.

"I want the city to step up and I know that's not going to happen and say, 'We screwed up and we want to help.' Probably not going to happen, but that's what I am looking for," she said.

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