Water still not safe to drink in Pajaro as Monterey County opens resource center to help with recovery

Cleanup efforts continue in the Monterey County community of Pajaro, where residents are still struggling to find clean drinking water. It has been nearly three weeks since a levee burst forced the entire town of 2,000 to evacuate overnight and residents are scrambling to put their lives back together.

On Wednesday, Monterey County opened a resource center to help residents and businesses access a variety of services. Residents are searching anywhere they can to get help with the rebuilding process.  

The Mexico Meat Market stands at the foot of the Main Street bridge that links Pajaro with Watsonville and has been in business for over 40 years. It survived the historic floods of 1995, but this time it's different and help is needed, owner Maria Martinez told KTVU.  Martinez hopes to have a small section of the store re-opened in perhaps a week, but the full project could take months. So she came to the resource center at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Watsonville. 

"We need help because we need to pay the mortgage," Martinez said. "We don’t have any income and this is our only income, the business. So the fact that this county set up [the resource center] is helpful."

The resource center was buzzing with people trying to find help on Wednesday. State and local agencies were onsite to help with resources ranging from housing to financial aid to agricultural assistance, as well as tax and health officials and even the Mexican Consulate. The idea is to get as much as help as possible – as simply as possible – to the people who need it the most.  

"We are also providing transportation for residents to come to [the resource center]," said Daniel Gonzalez with the Monterey County Office of Emergency Management. "The reason for this is to bring some of the resources that people need to mitigate the issues that they are finding now that they are back at their residences." 

Trucks carrying thousands of gallons of fresh water have been brought in and people are bringing their own containers, so they can stay in their homes and have water for drinking and cooking. Although the sewage system has been turned back on, could be several more weeks before the water is safe to drink, officials said. For the time being, residents should not cook, clean or give the water to their pets.

The magnitude of the cleanup effort in Pajaro cannot be overstated. Destroyed couches, beds, clothes and home appliances line many of the streets in Pajaro as they sit waiting to be hauled away.

"The furniture, bed, sofa, [it's] all destroyed," said flood victim Rolando Zamora. 

The resource center will be open 7 days a week through at least April 7th.