After residents were warned not to drink tap water contaminated with benzene late last week, water officials said the water now being treated by the town's filtration system shows no traces of the cancer-causing chemical.

But Harry Seifert, general manager of the Julian Community Services District, which distributes the water in the small mountain town, said the water board still advises residents to drink bottled water until lab results, which Seifert expects to receive today, prove the water in the town's distribution pipes is pure.

"The water coming out of the filter is safe, but the water in the distribution system may still contain some traces of benzene," Seifert said.

The benzene, a component of gasoline, is believed to have leaked from an underground gasoline tank. Chevron U.S.A. installed a carbon filter to purify the water last fall and has been testing the water for the past year, Seifert said.

Chevron inspectors discovered the tainted water Wednesday, but, by late Saturday afternoon, water and health officials said the water being pumped out of the filter was safe.

Seifert said a malfunction in the filtration system allowed the benzene to contaminate the water distributed to the district's 500 consumers.

Gary Stephany, deputy director of Environmental Health Services for the county, said the benzene did not pose "an acute or immediate health hazard."

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