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Governor signs bill to secure water for customers of broke utility

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Issue 30, Volume 18.
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RIVERSIDE - Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries expressed relief and elation today that a bill to secure clean, reliable drinking water for customers of a Menifee-area utility that's going under is now law.

"This has been a number of years in the making, and now we're on our way to being able to deliver safe potable water to these residents," Jeffries told City News Service. "All of the entities involved have pretty much agreed to all the terms, so there should be no more objections to moving forward."

On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1130 into law, freeing the Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District and the Lake Elsinore-based Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District to move ahead with establishing water service for around 140 households between Menifee and Wildomar.

"I was a little unsure of the governor's position on this. That's the thing about Brown -- nobody knows for sure where he's going to be. But he did the right thing for homeowners and entities in this case," Jeffries said.

SB 1130, sponsored by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, will shield Eastern Municipal and Elsinore Valley from any legal liabilities pending against the privately held County Water Co., which is folding and no longer able to maintain its wells.

"Despite the many challenges faced, the people of this community will receive access to the ... drinking water they deserve without laying the burden of cost on our rate payers," said Andy Morris, president of the Eastern Valley Municipal Water District.

The County Water Co., which is not a Riverside County agency, has been the target of multiple citations for alleged environmental violations stemming from polluted tanks, according to Jeffries.

The county has petitioned the Superior Court to take the CWC's assets into receivership. The supervisor said that process will be expedited thanks to the enactment of SB 1130, which as an urgency measure took effect immediately.

CWC customers have been utilizing private wells and tapping a freestanding water tank set up by Eastern Municipal in 2012 to procure the water they need, according to Jeffries.

"They just go down there with buckets and get whatever they can carry," the supervisor said.

Eastern Municipal and Eastern Valley have received $6.25 million in state funding to build the infrastructure necessary to distribute water to the affected area on a permanent basis.

In the next several months, construction will begin on a temporary pipeline to enable water deliveries from Eastern Municipal's and Eastern Valley's wells, according to the agencies.

Jeffries said the county will be seeking funding under the Proposition 84 Safe Drinking Water bond measure, approved by voters in 2006, and other sources to offset whatever costs are absorbed in securing water for the community.



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