Orange Cove distributes nearly 10,000 gallons of water following nitrate scare


Residents have been without clean drinking water since Thursday -- after test results detected nitrate levels nearly double the amount considered safe. Since then, the city opened a distribution center on Park and Railroad Streets and hundreds of people picked up free drinking water.

The city said four semi-trucks unloaded fresh drinking water and more than 10,000 gallons were handed out to families.

Residents told Action News the dangerous levels of nitrates found in the city's water supply couldn't have come at a worse time.

"It's pretty hard because of the holidays and it's costing me money to buy water so until then there's nothing more we can do," said Jesus Covarrubias.

Many are expecting family members to arrive in town in the next few days to celebrate Christmas and said they're in desperate need of safe water to shower, cook and clean.

"It's really concerning because we need water for everything like to brush your teeth," said Valeria Mancilla. "I have a little girl and she wakes up asking for water and we run out really soon like there's no water in the stores, so it's hard."

For now, they're turning to a team of volunteers distributing water downtown for help.

"This is sad, this is the worst thing and we don't want anyone getting sick," said Vice Mayor Victor Lopez.

Lopez said those most at risk are pregnant women and infants under six months old. He's urging everyone not to drink the water and explained boiling it only makes the problem worse because the nitrates become more concentrated.

"The city will be responsible for providing all of the water, free of charge and they won't have to pay their water bills either, because this is a crisis and it's our responsibility," he said.

Lopez said he couldn't give an estimate on when the problem would be fixed, but suspected it would be at least several days if not weeks before the water is safe to drink. Until then, workers plan to serve a steady stream of customers in downtown Orange Cove in order to make sure no one becomes ill.

"I appreciate that, without that could you imagine?" said Covarrubias.

The California Department of Public Health announced it will provide the community of Orange Cove with up to $250,000 to clean up the contaminated water. The funds will also go towards purchasing water for members of the community.

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