By Dennis J. Freeman
COMPTON — Local officials have ramped up efforts to force Sativa Los Angeles County Water District to operate either under state-controlled stewardship or be disbanded altogether.
Leading the charge has been U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn and Assemblyman Mike Gipson.
The elected officials are tired of dealing with the lingering brown water crisis issue in Compton and the Watts/Willowbrook area. As many as 6,800 people may have been affected.
“One day living with brown water is one day too many,” Barragán said. “Our families deserve to know that the water they drink won’t hurt them or their children. Clean water is a basic human right. For too long the residents of Compton have had doubts about their water quality. This situation is unacceptable.”
Going further in her outrage, Barragán reached out to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make a formal request for assistance on the matter.
Barragán also teamed up with fellow Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, to author the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2018 (H.R. 5609), a bill which would provide clean and safe drinking water to millions of people.
“This is the type of investment we need to be making in our communities,” Barragán said. “Instead of giving out tax breaks for the 1 percent, we need to ensure cities like Compton have clean water to drink.”
The Sativa County Water District issued a lengthy statement on its website, saying the water is not a threat to anyone’s health.
“The discoloration in our system’s water does not pose a health threat,” the statement said. Sativa County Water District (SLACWD) takes discolored and brown tap water reports and concerns seriously, as discoloration in the water we serve our customers leads to concerns about the safety and appearance of the water.”
The water district puts blame for the brown water on the flushing system it implemented.
“The cause of the recent water discoloration reports experienced by our customers was due to sediment build up due to the lack of high-velocity flushing in a very old pipeline system. This new aggressive Deep Main Water Flushing Program will result in clear water improvement as [the district] and the residents have already noticed clear water throughout the system. Residents have been notified that at times, these flushing activities stir and ‘kick up’ decades of sediment buildup within our pipes. This stirred discolored water may flow and be trapped in resident water heaters for days or weeks.”
The statement was posted in April shortly after the issue first surfaced. But residents are still complaining about brown water and local officials are starting to address the problem.
Hahn, Ridley-Thomas and Gipson are all calling for some kind of oversight of the troubled water district.
“All residents, including within the Sativa Water District, should feel confident that when they turn on their faucet, they can expect clean, clear water. Plain and simple,” Ridley-Thomas said. “This issue is a wake-up call that not all water districts may be equipped to adequately provide this vital service, and when that is the case, the status quo should not prevail.”
As a member of the Local Agency Formation Commission, Hahn voted for Sativa Water District to be dissolved.
“People have a right to clean, safe water,” Hahn said. “Dissolving the Sativa Water District is the first step to ensuring these residents get the clean, drinkable water that they deserve.”
Gipson, like Barragán, has introduced legislation to handle the situation. Gipson is calling for a state administrator to oversee the water district.
“Residents served by Sativa are dealing with a severe water crisis,” Gipson said in a released statement. “Families are experiencing brown water coming from their kitchen faucets and bath tubs, which is completely unacceptable. Clean water is a basic necessity that all people are entitled to and I will not be silent while people in my district suffer.”
Gipson added: “We found that Sativa does not have the resources to maintain its infrastructure, meaning that this system is doomed to fail without outside intervention. We want to be as helpful to Sativa as possible, but we can no longer wait to address this water crisis.
“I intend to continue to be aggressive on this issue and will not stop until this is resolved. In moving Assembly Bill 1577, I am doing everything in my power to ensure that our community has the clean, safe and affordable drinking water that it deserves.”