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San Jose Residents Say It Took Months To Be Notified Of Tainted Well Water

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- The San Jose Water Company says its wells on Willow Glen Way and Williams Road have not been in service since October when tests confirmed the presence of a type of sulfonic acid that exceeded state action levels.

"Our wells were slightly above what the state considers to be a health-based risk," said Francois Rodigari, Director of Water Quality and Environmental Services for the San Jose Water Company.

11,000 households in San Jose's Willow Glen and Williams Road neighborhoods received letters in the mail beginning in late January from the San Jose Water Company warning that the wells that provide them with drinking water tested positive for elevated levels of per-flouro-octane sulfonic acid, known as PFOS.

"Yeah, I'm concerned," said Jane Little, who lives in Willow Glen but did not get a notice. She said she heard about it from her neighbors.

"I think a lot of us drink bottled water, but we like the option of turning on our taps," she said.

New state water contamination action levels of 6.5 parts per trillion went into effect in last August.

In October, the San Jose Water Company says its ongoing testing confirmed levels of 66 to 82 parts per trillion PFOS at wells on Willow Glen Way and Williams Road.

The water company says it took immediate action to shut off the wells.

"We discovered an issue, we fixed it right away. To the best of our ability, this was a short term exposure and this is a long term exposure risk," Rodigari said.

PFOS has been used since the late 1940s in everything from firefighting foam, to carpets and even non-stick cookware.

One of the Sna Jose Water Company's contaminated wells
One of the Sna Jose Water Company's contaminated wells (CBS)

The source of the contamination is still a mystery. The water company is investigating with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which manages the underground aquifers.

But it took from October to late January for the public to be notified that there was a problem.

"The notification lagged but the corrective action was immediate," Rodigari said.

The water company said it was a complex and time consuming process to analyze and confirm which households would be affected, which is why it took so long.

Neighbors say they should have been notified sooner.

"I think there's a trust issue now. They need to not just correct, but correct their information and be proactive. Because people are wondering what we don't know," said Little.

"Even if it's a question mark, you would like to at least know, so you can take precautions," said neighbor Nicole Collandra. "Nobody likes to feel like they're notified last."


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