Boil water order for parts of county follows massive blackout

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Residents in parts of the county were advised today to boil their water or use bottled water following a historic power outage which left some 5 million people from Mexico to southern Orange county without power until early this morning.

The affected areas include parts of the College area and College Grove, Carmel Mountain Ranch, North City/Flower Hill, Otay Mesa, Rancho Bernardo, San Carlos, Scripps Ranch, Stonebridge, Tierrasanta, and La Jolla, west of Interstate 5 and north of La Jolla Parkway. Residents in these areas should use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking or cooking, the city's Mayor Jerry Sanders announced in a news conference.

The boil water order will remain until further notice and a information line was set up for residents at (619) 515-3525, Sanders said.

The massive outage also caused two of the city's sewer pump stations to shut down, causing spills, Sanders said. About 1.9 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Penasquitos Lagoon after one of the pump stations failed and about 125,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the Sweetwater Channel.

Signs have been posted warning people to stay out of the water in both areas and the order will remain in effect until the area has two days of clear water.

The outage struck about 3:40 p.m. Thursday and power was restored to San Diego County by about 3:30 this morning, San Diego Gas and Electric reported, but officials asked customers to continue conserving electricity today as a precaution. Residents were encouraged to avoid the use of air conditioners if possible, or set them no lower 78 degrees if structural cooling was absolutely necessary. Major appliances should not be used today.

“Our system is still fragile, even though we have all of our customers back in service. Not all our power plants are operating today, some of them took a pretty tough hit when the lights went out yesterday,” said SDG&E President Michael Niggli. One of those effected was the San Onofre nuclear plant, where two reactors shut down although the plant did not lose power or experience safety issues.

Several agencies will participate in a joint investigation to determine the cause of the power failure, Niggli said, noting the short-circuit was initiated by an operator error on a high-voltage power in the North Gila-region line between Arizona and Southern California.

“The question now is how did that ripple through the rest of the system,” Niggli said.

In seeking to determine what caused the system breakdown, the agencies will coordinate with the Department of Energy and other federal agencies, the California ISO, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, California and Arizona state regulators and companies involved to monitor the situation, officials said.

During the outage, schools and businesses — including gas stations — closed; commuters jammed roadways; medically fragile people packed hospitals; and several people throughout the county were rescued after being trapped in elevators and on trolley cars.

The National University System Institute for Policy Research estimated the economic impact of the outage to be between $97 million and $118 million.

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