When Palo Alto's utility officials were testing customers' water quality in May they uncovered something strange -- an unusually high amount of coliform bacteria, a bacteria that is generally considered to be nonthreatening but that can indicate the presence of other unsavory organisms.
The city responded by notifying its water supplier, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and asking the agency to clean the grates at its connection to Palo Alto's water system. It also sent out notices to all water customers, advising them of this unwelcome finding and began follow-up testing to determine whether harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, was present in the water.
There wasn't, and after nearly three weeks of testing, the Utilities Department determined that the water is clean and safe. In its most recent notice to customers, the department states that "bacteria are no longer present and this is not an emergency."
City Manager James Keene re-emphasized at Monday's City Council meeting that "there was never any emergency."
"However, because this temporary water-quality change was a violation of state drinking-water standards, we are required by law to notify everyone about what happened and what the city has done to rectify the situation," he said.