Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The entire water-delivery system in a 184-acre section of the devastated Fountaingrove neighborhood will likely need replacement after becoming contaminated with benzene, and it appears the city will initially be on the hook for a project whose estimated costs have soared to $43 million.
The intensive investigation into the exact cause of the contamination continues, but officials say they now understand how the cancer-causing hydrocarbon found in gasoline and plastics made it into the water mains in the area.
The city’s team of water engineers, consultants and regulators is “converging on the recommended approach” that would require the “full replacement of the distribution system, from the water mains to the meters on the properties” and related equipment like fire hydrants within the advisory area, Ben Horenstein, director of Santa Rosa Water, said Thursday.
The cost of that solution, which Horenstein had previously estimated at up to $20 million, has now more than doubled, and completion may take significantly longer than the year he initially hoped.
The development raises a host of questions about how quickly the devastated Fountaingrove neighborhood, which lost 1,420 homes in the Tubbs fire, may be able to recover, how the city can fund the needed repairs, and what it means for residents who still live there.