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After protest, Petaluma turns water back on near homeless encampment

Petaluma has restored water access for a Steamer Landing homeless encampment after residents and activists protested the shutoff this week, City Manager Peggy Flynn confirmed Friday.

Calling it a matter of health, hygiene and safety, homeless residents and activists hosted a protest Wednesday, demanding access to fresh water after they say a city-owned spigot near a downtown Petaluma encampment was shut down.

The event started about noon Wednesday at the encampment located near Steamer Landing, before protesters, equipped with hand-painted signs, marched to the corner of D and Lakeville streets to engage with passing motorists.

In an email Friday, Flynn said the water was mistakenly cut off when park staff shuttered nearby irrigation operations in response to the drought.

“Staff immediately addressed (the matter), and one of the spigots remains turned off until it can be repaired for leaks. The other is now operational,” Flynn said. “Note that both, while potable, are not meant to be used for drinking water.”

Some residents who spoke to the Argus-Courier on Wednesday say they used the city water for bathing purposes.

Jason Sarris, who heads the Novato chapter of the California Homeless Union, said lack of access to water is a matter of health and safety.

“We all need water to sustain life,” Sarris said Wednesday, while joining other activists in handing out water bottles at the encampment, home to more than 20 tents. “But as a safety precaution, I think there should be water here because of fire safety.”

Tyler Silvy is editor of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. Reach him at tyler.silvy@arguscourier.com, 707-776-8458, or @tylersilvy on Twitter.

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