OC's 'toilet to tap' drinking water a tough sell even on a hot day

Hollywood, Los Angeles (KABC), 6/21/17

"Toilet to tap" is the less-than-appealing nickname given to wastewater that is treated so it can be recycled for human use.

For about a decade now, Orange County has had a plant that purifies wastewater and pumps it back into the groundwater supply.

And as the county expands its operations, it is working to convince the public that the water is indeed clean and safe to drink.

On a scorching first day of summer, the Orange County Water District set up a stand in Hollywood to give away free ice-cold bottled water.

But like most free things, there was a catch. In fact it's fair to say this giveaway was flush with catches.

Anyone drinking it had to get over any mental reservations about where the water had once been.

"It's toilet water!" exclaimed Sir Young Duke, a Hollywood resident. "What do I look like, a dog or something? I'm not drinking no toilet water!"

Some out-of-state visitors, however, had no problem with it. In fact, it was seen as just another weird California thing.

"I just got an extra bottle to take home because we're from Georgia and we don't do things like this in Georgia," said Sandy Smith, visiting from the Peach State. "This is absolutely a California thing."

Mehul Patel with the OCWD acknowledged the agency has to get over the stigma of the project's unfortunate nickname.

"The catchy headline is usually toilet to tap and yeah it does get your attention," Patel said.

But OCWD officials insist the water goes through a very strict, effective purification process.

"We put it in the groundwater aquifer, it mixes with other native groundwater and then is pumped up as drinking water," Patel said.

The water district has no plans to actually bottle the water. It set up the stand to try to get people to accept the idea of recycled wastewater, so it could eventually pump it directly into the water system.

The agency also plans to take its public-image effort throughout the state.

 

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