Post-fire water report answers some questions in Santa Rosa, raises others

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Even now in Santa Rosa, there are places where residents cannot yet drink the water from their faucets.

That explains all the bottles from the city, stacked inside Zahia Nabor's garage. "Twenty bottles right here. They come every two weeks," Nabor said.

She lives in one of 13 homes still guarding against benzene pollution in the Fountaingrove neighborhood. An independent report sanctioned by the city now confirms that when water pressure dropped the night of the fire, the cancer-causing chemical leached from homes into lines.

RELATED: First home completed in Santa Rosa's Fountaingrove after North Bay fires

Last spring, the city estimated it would need to spend $40 million and replace 5 miles of pipe -- but with flushing and replacing connecting pipes, that problem is almost resolved, and for only a few million dollars instead.

That's a relief to Natalie Manning, who can finally make plans to rebuild. "The city worked quickly to determine the source and how to resolve it," she said.

The report also recommends a new communication system between its water towers and central control. It failed on the night of the fire.

And Santa Rosa may want to consider building a second, independent back-up system water designed only to fight fires.

Projected cost would be $100 million. The rest of climate changing California may want to pay attention.

RELATED: Santa Rosa wildfire victims take on utilities, state legislature

"I know we are going to have to plan for that change. Whether it is spending the extra money or moving down that hill is a decision we have to make as a community," said Natalie Manning.

ABC7 asked the Santa Rosa Water Department how $100 million might impact customers.

It could double their rates.

Santa Rosa Water presents this report to the city council Friday.

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