Sierra Madre Residents Alarmed by Yellow-Colored Tap Water

A city official says the tap water is perfectly safe, and the discoloration is normal

Residents in a small Los Angeles foothill community are fed up with the yellow cloudy water that flows from their taps, but city leaders said the water – albeit less than crystal clear – is safe to drink.

Two months ago, the 11,000-resident city of Sierra Madre – about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles – switched from where it gets its water. With the change in source, came a change in color.

"We started getting gold in our toilet, gold as in urine gold," resident Maureen Nelson said. "We cleaned it up and flushed it again. Guess what? Came up again gold!"

Down the street, neighbor Eleanora Woosley said she doesn't want to bathe in the yellow water.

"You have to run off the water to take a shower. Unfortunately, it's a waste of water," Woosley said.

And she certainly doesn't want to drink it. Woosley has been buying bottled water since Oct. 10.

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That's when this picturesque foothill city switched from using its own aquifer to supply residents’ water to using water imported from the Metropolitan Water District.

"The reason we went with this source of water is because our aquifer has been depleted severely over last couple of years," said Bruce Inman, Sierra Madre’s director of public works.

Inman said they expected the water may change color when they changed sources.

"Whenever you switch water sources from a free chlorine source to chloramines, you get this kind of reaction," he said.

The chemical make-up of the water is reacting with years-old rust in the pipes, Inman said.

Resident Grant Nelson is a retired Metropolitan Water District engineer, so he understands why it's happening, but he still doesn't like it.

"When you go to a restaurant and get water like that, you can't get away with, ‘This is chloramine. It's safe, don't worry about the color, it looks like urine.’"

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