Sativa Water District Now Under Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Works Management

The long-troubled Sativa Water District was effectively shut-down on Wednesday. The Los Angeles County (LAC) Department of Public Works will temporarily run the small water district which serves approximately 6,850 residents in parts of Southern California’s Willowbrook and Compton. According to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Sativa has consistently failed to provide customers with a reliable and adequate supply of pure, potable water as required by the California Health and Safety Code.

Sativa’s customers have complained of discolored water and particulates in the water. According to the SWRCB, the district’s violations of water quality failures are numerous: failure to provide adequate capacity to meet the system’s maximum daily demand; failure to maintain adequate pressure in the system and flushing velocity for hydrants; failure to maintain particulate matter requirements; and failure to comply with water quality monitoring and reporting requirements. Customers had even taken to social media to share postings of tea-colored water flowing from their taps.

“For far too long, our residents have had to endure the unacceptable — they had no idea what would flow when they turned on their tap,” said LAC Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (2nd District). “Enough is enough. Los Angeles County is ready to step in and step up … and immediately begin to triage the situation.”

With the water district’s five-member board of directors and its manager removed from their positions and offices, respectively, Paul Novak, executive officer of LAC’s Local Agency Formation Commission, the agency which monitors Sativa, indicated that LAC personnel would move into the district’s office on Thursday. According the Los Angeles Times, officials have indicated that it will take between $10 to $15 million to upgrade Sativa’s 70-year-old systems including the manganese-coated pipes.

Although LAC’s will serve as the temporary administrator for the troubled water district, the intent is to transition its operations to a successor entity, most possibly with a larger water district. Management by LAC’s Department of Public Works marks the first time the SWRCB has implemented its authority to assume responsibility of a problem-plagued water agency. In 2016, former Senator Lois Wolk (D- 3rd District-Vacaville) authored SB 552, Chapter 776, Statutes of 2016, providing the SWRCB with the authority to assume the management of a water district for the purposes of providing affordable, safe drinking water and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse and to contract with an administrator to provide administrative and managerial services to a designated water system.

The state water board’s order implements Assembly Bill (AB) 1577 (Chapter 859, Statutes of 2018), authored by Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-64th District-Gardena). Governor Jerry Brown approved Gipson’s bill in late September.

After Gov. Brown signed AB 1577, Assemblymember Gibson stated, “Residents being served by Sativa have been dealing with a water crisis for far too long. Sativa ratepayers have experienced brown water coming from their kitchen faucets and bath tubs, which is completely unacceptable. Now that AB 1577 has become law, Sativa’s board of directors will be replaced by a state administrator and the district will be set to chart a new path of stability and improved water quality.”

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