NewsCovering Kern County


Frazier Park community still asking for clean water months later

Drinking water
Posted at 5:25 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 21:18:57-05

FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (KERO) — Back in the summer, Frazier Park residents were asked not to boil their water and those who are infants or pregnant are being cautioned not to drink it after a high level of nitrate was found in the water which is known to affect how blood carries oxygen to the body.

But several months later, the issue continues, and the community is still getting letters about their water.

A resident told 23ABC he just wants clean water, meanwhile, the district explained there are several factors for why it will probably be a while before they can stop sending them.

“The thing is, there are people that don’t read mail like this, there are people that have no idea that their water is being poisoned. If they have small children, if they have pregnant women, it is going to affect them,” said Jose Guardado, Frazier Park community resident

At 63 years old, Guardado knows he doesn’t fall under the main people at risk, which are infants who can die from consuming water with high levels of nitrate, also known as Blue Baby Syndrome.

But Guardado has had two strokes and said his partner, Barbara, has health issues related to oxygen.

“It hurts me and if anything happens to her because of this,” said Guardado.

Visibly frustrated, Guadado could not finish his sentence. He says buying bottled water is not an option as they can barely afford to keep the lights on.

Syndey Evans with the non-profit environmental working group, says that removing nitrate from water is difficult and expensive.

“It puts the utilities between a rock and a hard place, where they have got this contamination. They are responsible for protecting the people that are consuming the drinking water, but not all of them have the resources to deal with the contamination and that is a bigger part of the problem,” said Evans.

That is what Jonnie Allison, who has been working in the utility department in Fraizer Park since 2009 is facing. He says the issue is coming from a leak in the well. They already patched it up two years ago, but it cost about $90,000.

Since the well was built in 1963, they suspect more leaks will appear and believe it is more cost-efficient to just get a new well. But that’s not an easy fix.

“We have the money secured, went out to bid, had 4 or 5 contractors show up, and then when it came time to bid nobody submitted one cause they said they couldn’t find a driller,” said Allison.

Allison said due to the drought, well building contractors don’t have enough drillers to keep up with demand.

Since they don't know when the new well will be built, Allison said he tried to reach out to the state for bottled water for everyone but says they told him it was not necessary as there are not many who fit in the risk category in the Frazier Park population.

“In the meantime, what we are doing to mitigate the concerns for the state and the population. We are getting a nitrate analyzer which is about $30,000 and we are going to put it in the line itself and it will continually monitor the nitrate so if it ever does exceed the limit it is going to shut the well off,” said Allison.

Although Allison said California has strict regulations for nitrates and is right now comfortable with drinking the water and giving it to his kids, Evans argues the scale used for these levels is also concerning as it is based on data from the 60s.

“The legal limit set by the EPA is 10 milligrams per liter, a lot of studies are still showing risks as low as 1 milligram per liter and the health guideline that EWG supports based on a peer-review study of multiple studies is just .14 of milligrams per liter,” said Evans.

To put it into perspective, she says that is like a drop of water in a pool.

And although most health issues occur when the water has been polluted for long periods or the levels are extremely high, she says people should still know what is in their water.

“Needing community and source water protections and community change because there are a lot of people that are not in a position, for one reason or another, to drink their own drinking water and that is not fair and that is not equitable,” said Evans.

Evans said her group is working across the country to have the EPA revise the scale to better reflect the new data in these studies and lower the scale.

The state water board says they follow the California office of environmental health hazard assessment and at the moment they don’t know if there are plans to revise that.