Water from a faucet in National City on April 15, 2022
Water from the faucet of a home in National City on April 15, 2022 / Photo courtesy of Ramel J. Wallace

National City resident Ramel Wallace thought maybe he just forgot to flush the toilet on Thursday night.

Come Friday, faucets in the sink, kitchen and shower all spilled apple juice-colored water, he said. Wallace went straight to a National City Facebook group to crowd-source the reason and saw neighbors posted about the issue. 

“A lot of people thought they were tripping,” said Wallace, who said he’s lived in National City for five years. 

Running his water didn’t flush-out the color. About midday on Friday, his water cleared up. Wallace said he didn’t get any notification about what caused the discoloration. 

The public water agency Sweetwater Authority, which supplies drinking water to National City, confirmed it didn’t issue a press release about the problem because there was nothing to fear. 

“While there was no impact to water quality and safety, we understand the concerns of our customers,” wrote Leslie Payne, a Sweetwater Authority spokeswoman, in an email Tuesday.

The cause was that a valve connected to a new water main installation was “inadvertently opened,” said Payne. That triggered a change in water pressure around the area where customers were seeing discoloration. Changes in the flow of water stirs up naturally-occurring sediments or minerals that are in water mains, which was the cause of the discoloration, Payne confirmed.

The water agency didn’t locate the source of the problem until after 2:30 on Friday when customers from the northern portion of National City began calling in to report the water color, said Payne. Staff from Sweetwater’s water quality department investigated homes and businesses where water ran yellow, searching for nearby construction, leaks or any disrupted fire hydrants. A broken fire hydrant caused yellow-brown water discoloration in Chula Vista back in 2017, which can unsettle minerals in the water system, according to Sweetwater’s website. 

Payne added that the agency will be adding a truck that can flush water mains and building in a system that can remove iron and manganese, often the cause of such discoloration, to enhance water quality.

Sweetwater Authority said the water would have been safe to drink even when discolored. National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, who chairs the governing board of the water agency, said she “drank a glass of water without issue” even after noticing a slight discoloration.

But the event scarred Wallace to a certain extent. He’s since kept his mouth far from the water stream in the shower, something Wallace said he’s never thought to do before. 

He saved a yellowed sample of the water that flowed through his faucets in a plastic bottle that he’d like to test himself, he said.

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  1. Interesting that this story relies on the veracity of the water authority alone.

    1. Probably because they were, as the author worded it, confirming what is actually pretty common knowledge about water lines! Your ignorance does not equate to a conspiracy.

  2. I agree with the person who is wondering why this story relies only on the word of the water authority. Honestly, after Flint, Michigan? It’s really tone-deaf for Sweetwater to say “trust us, we didn’t say anything because everything’s fine.” I’m rather curious to know the results of Mr. Wallace’s testing.

  3. If we’re not supposed to eat yellow snow, why on earth would we drink yellow water. I call BS and it should be tested by an outside agency. Preferably an agency that doesn’t have their hand in the pockets of the National City Water Authority.

  4. This is the case
    The pipes have bio accumulated natural minerals. These minerals bind to the chemicals used to break up the manganese ( do not confuse with magnesium)
    The chemicals used are reffered to as “sanitizers”
    The combination of this can create me compounds that are not currently regulated. Because they are not currently regulated does not mean they are not dangerous to the living. The tests will just frustrate you because Manganese is dangerous and it’s worse when it’s “sanitized” this can be “Haloscetic” compounds.
    While the water district has walked this line for many years they know it’s coming. What they really are trying to do is wait for federal money to fix a problem thry know exists and hoping they can stay profitable until then.
    Instead the answer is transparency and put in a filter station to get clean drinking and cooking water and espicially for children.
    Look up manganese and prenatal and natal.
    The situation using dilution as a solution to evade regulation and public trust in water failed. It’s going to get a lot worse.
    Just know your water may include river water where up stream waste water treatment is released. This is all not confusing
    This is what happened in England and the same thing is happening here.
    In this case you can’t trust and you can’t verify.
    Municipal protection and accountability is falling squarely on the ones with out a voice. Wait for the Lead Copper rule enforcement in 2024
    “You ain’t seen nothing yet”
    Face the fact water can’t be supplied for Pennie’s to consume
    That water supplied is what it is
    Buy one less coffee a day but quality water in refillable containers and go to a local spring if you can find one.
    This is not an attempt to bash public water supplies and just the truth.
    I hope and now I pray which I never did until I learned the truth about where this is heading for mothers and children.
    The truth hurts initially but far less then hiding the root problem.

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