Camp Fire

KCBS Radio/Holly Quan

After Devastating Fire, Town Of Paradise Faces $300-Million Water Problem

Jeffrey Schaub
April 19, 2019 - 10:39 am

The Camp Fire not only destroyed thousands of homes and structures in the town of Paradise last fall, it also turned a large part of the city's water system into a toxic brew of cancer-causing benzene and other contaminants.

The only solution may entail replacing the entire water, a project that could cost $300 million, according to officials. 

"It's definitely a public health and safety issue," said Paradise Irrigation District Manager Kevin Phillips. "When a system depressurizes, it creates a vacuum that sucks in contaminants. What's happened is that portions of our distribution system are contaminated in the infrastructure. That infrastructure is then actually contaminating clean drinking water," via PVC main lines and connection lines to individual properties.

Paradise homes and business that are still standing use bottled water or have had water tanks brought in. Piping replacement is set to begin in these areas first. 


When Paradise water managers realized the scope of the problem, they got in touch with their counterparts in Santa Rosa, who'd dealt with a similar situation in the Fountaingrove neighborhood after the Tubbs Fire in 2017.  

"We learned a lot from Santa Rosa," Phillips said. "We were on the phone with [them> within weeks of the fire to ask their advice and get all the documents they were able to create through their contamination and disaster."

Santa Rosa's water emergency involved 350 homes. The problem in Paradise is much larger. "Our area that we're trying to deal with is 10,500," said Phillips.  

Written by Diana Shook