With Discolored Water Still Flowing From Taps in Compton, Assemblyman Provides Update on Clean Water Bill on Gov. Brown’s Desk

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Sativa water district customer Karen Lewis holds a jar of discolored water that came from her faucet in this undated photo. (Credit: Robert Goulrey / Los Angeles Times)

Sativa water district customer Karen Lewis holds a jar of discolored water that came from her faucet in this undated photo. (Credit: Robert Goulrey / Los Angeles Times)

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A bill that would seek to end the frustration of the 6,800 customers in Compton and Willowbrook complaining of murky water flowing from their taps is sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, and the assemblyman who introduced it held a community forum Thursday to discuss the measure.

The bill that easily passed the state Assembly and Senate last month, AB 1577, would appoint a state administrator to assume control of the daily operations of their water provider, the Sativa Los Angeles County Water District. It would also dissolve Sativa’s existing board and appoint the state controller to conduct an audit of the district’s resources and finances.

“It is an emergency situation” currently affecting 17,000 people, Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson, the bill’s author, said during the town hall. Because of that, the bill includes an “urgency clause” that would put it into effect immediately if Brown signs it.

With Sativa no longer the provider, the state administrator would look for another public entity with the capability and capacity to serve the area. There are three other water providers in Compton, but it’s unclear whether any of those would be considered for the role.

The county’s Department of Public Works would also come in to ensure the state was doing its job, Gipson said.

“This has never happened before in the state of California, where such legislation exists to focus specifically on a failed water district. So this is brand new territory,” Gipson told KTLA. “Will it be seamless? I’m not sure.”

Gipson said the measure’s goal is to provide residents with clean, usable drinking water as quickly as possible.

“We don’t want anyone to be experiencing what you’re experiencing now,” he said. “We don’t want anyone in California not to be able to turn on their faucet and have usable water.”

Officials have attributed the problem to century-old infrastructure and said, though unsightly, it wasn’t harmful. But an analysis showed it contained slightly elevated levels of manganese, which could cause neurological defects down the line.

Residents say they’ve been avoiding cooking with it and bathing in it, resorting to using costly bottled water instead.

Sativa’s general manager, Maria Rachelle Garza, was already placed on administrative leave in June after it was alleged that the district paid people to attend a town hall and speak out in support it.

The agency has also been sued by its customers, who claim it failed to provide quality drinking water and misappropriated public funds, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gipson said he is also asking Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office to ensure there haven’t been any criminal violations.

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