Thursday, May 10, 2018

By Jim Forbes for The Bulletin


“It’s so wrong that our children are afraid of water coming out of their faucets,” Rep. Nanette Barragan declared to loud applause. “Let me tell you, in affluent neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and Malibu they wouldn’t allow this to happen,” the Congresswoman said to residents chants of “No, No, No.”

Barragan hosted a Town Hall meeting at George Washington Elementary School that packed in hundreds of local residents seeking answers to the cause of discolored water that on any given day ranges from foggy white to brown.

Most complaints were from customers of the small Sativa Los Angeles County Water District serving Willowbrook and 30-60 households in Compton.

“The biggest problem that we have is our infrastructure. It’s more than 70 years old,” Sativa General Manager Maria Garza explained.

“We serve a disadvantaged community. We have one of the lowest water rates in this entire state, Garza said. “Our residents cannot afford a multi-million dollar project.”

Water officials say the source of the problem is the mineral manganese, a common issue in water systems. The mineral oxidizes causing a buildup of sediment in the pipes. Combined with the aged pipes of Sativa, the problem continues to worsen and has been particularly bad since mid-April.

“And the only thing we can do is we either replace our pipes, or we continue with our maintenance flushing,” Garza says, adding that pipe replacement isn’t a financial option for the tiny non-profit absent outside funding.

Despite the foul look, and according to some residents, odor and rash inducing elements, the State Water Resources Control Board as well as the LA County Department of Health both claim testing has determined the water remains safe.

While acknowledging that, Rep. Barragan says it still doesn’t pass either the eye or smell test.

“We’re hearing from experts there’s no bacteria in the water and it’s safe to drink.  However, they are acknowledging there are higher levels of manganese in the water and they’re acknowledging that that can cause odor that can cause bad taste.”

The Compton Municipal Water Company didn’t escape complaints at the Town Hall either, as some customers expressed unhappiness over its water as well.

Yesterday in a live Town Hall on Facebook live, Mayor Aja Brown noted the City of Compton has approved approximately $100 million in improvements.

“If you drive down Compton Blvd. you’ll see long black tar, that’s because the pipes have been replaced under Compton Blvd. just recently,” the mayor disclosed.

“If you are in Compton Water and you experience brown water and different issues, we encourage you to always come to the city. We test our water monthly and our water reports are posted monthly on our website.”

Last week, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to authorize a “strike team” to conduct a deeper dive on water quality. In the interim the County Board of Health is distributing bottled water to those in need.

But that is little solace to the residents who drink, bathe, wash clothes and dishes in foul smelling murky water, a point Rep. Barragan strongly acknowledged.

“That is why I wanted to make sure that people had an opportunity to be heard and that we brought all the stakeholders together.”