A coalition of federal, state and local officials urged Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 1577 (Gipson), bipartisan piece of legislation that would appoint Los Angeles County as the interim administrator of the troubled Sativa Water District, overseeing its operations until a long-term water service provider can be identified to serve unincorporated Willowbrook and a portion of the city of Compton.
“Longstanding deficiencies in Sativa’s fiscal and operational management have plagued our most vulnerable communities with foul-smelling brown water but, to date, Sativa has failed to respond to the outcry with any solutions,” LA County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, along with U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, California State Senator Steven Bradford and California State Assembly Member Mike Gipson, who authored AB 1577, wrote in their letter to the governor.
They added, “AB 1577 would facilitate the process by which Los Angeles County could assume interim administrative authority over Sativa and ensure the full transfer of authority to a permanent administrator that can provide responsible and effective long-term management over the supply of safe, drinking water.”
Sativa serves about 6,800 people living in a service area that spans about one-third of a square mile in South Los Angeles. Because of Sativa’s inability to provide proper maintenance of its 70-year-old pipes, its customers have had to endure brown water running through their taps over the years, mostly recently in April. In the past, Sativa has also faced allegations of mismanagement and nepotism.
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the LA County Department of Public Works (DPW) is well suited for the role of interim administrator over Sativa. It has extensive experience operating water systems countywide, and currently serves 245,000 customers.
“Sativa’s mismanagement should no longer be allowed to continue,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Los Angeles County is ready to step up, assume interim operations, and help identify a long-term water service providers that can give our residents the clean and clear water they deserve. I call on Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 1577 to allow this transfer to take place immediately.”
Identifying a new long-term water service provider could take nine to 12 months. During that period, DPW would supervise the provision of water for Sativa’s customers. At the same time, it would review current system operations, maintenance and financial procedures with a focus on optimizing water quality and preparing for a new, long-term water provider.
When Sativa customers expressed alarm about brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to conduct an investigation, take immediate steps to prevent serious risks to public health, and determine whether appropriate management and governance of the water district is in place to address Sativa’s neglect of its pipes and related infrastructure. At his direction, the County also distributed approximately 20,000 gallons of bottled water to Sativa customers.