County Seeks to Secure Clean Water for Customers of Troubled Utility

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County supervisors today authorized the Department of Environmental Health to proceed with arranging for two local water agencies to service customers of a utility that, officials say, has failed to supply safe drinking water.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries introduced the proposal, under which the Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District and the Lake Elsinore-based Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District would control water delivery to 140 homes between Menifee and Wildomar that are currently served by the privately held County Water Company.

”This business operation has been providing contaminated drinking water to these poor neighborhoods for a number of years,” Jeffries said. ”We’re finally at a point where we have (tentative) agreements with two public water providers to take over water service. They can bring in their own infrastructure to deliver potable water.”

According to Jeffries, the County Water Company — which is not a Riverside County agency — has been the target of multiple administrative actions by the Department of Environmental Health in the last two years, but those would be abrogated if a water transfer agreement between the CWC and the two public utilities is formalized.

”The CWC is in the process of disbanding,” the supervisor said. ”It basically has a tank and a contaminated well to its name.”

The one snag to a deal is the overhang of liability. According to Jeffries, neither the EMWD nor the EVMWD want to inherit legal responsibility for past exposure that County Water Company customers had to polluted water.

”These are well-run public utilities. It’s not right for them to take on the liability … and pay off some big lawsuit,” Supervisor Marion Ashley said.

Jeffries agreed, noting that legislation has been introduced in the state Senate that’s intended to protect the parties ahead of a transfer agreement.

”Eastern and Elsinore Valley have gone above and beyond the call of duty to find some resolution for these customers,” the supervisor said. ”If this deal doesn’t go through, we’re going to have to shut down a private company and find some other way of having water delivered there.”

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