State senator supplies Springville with water

Residents of Springville turn out in numbers to share their frustrations with Del Oro Water.(Kenny Goodman)

State representatives Shannon Grove, Vince Fong host event in Springville to provide residents with water after flood damages left them high and dry

SPRINGVILLE – In light of Springville’s recent lack of steady access to potable water due to flood damages, Senator Shannon Grove and Assemblyman Vince Fong have announced that they are holding a community event at the River Island Country Club to distribute water to the affected residents.

This event, which will be held on Aug. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., hopes to offset Springville residents’ lack of water as their provider, Del Oro Water Company (DOWC), works on permanent solutions to the issue. Following flood impacts from the winter storms in March, five of Del Oro’s wells were damaged, leaving a portion of Springville citizens with little to no access to water.

The solutions from Del Oro, many of which were proposed by residents at a recent town meeting on July 28, will take time to implement, according to both Del Oro and Luhdorff and Scalmainini Consulting Engineers (LSCE), who were asked to review the situation. According to LSCE, there were four specific fixes they were presented, two of which will take time to implement but are feasible, and the other two being unfeasible/too expensive.

Del Oro assured residents during the July meeting that they were already planning on working towards implementing the two more feasible fixes. Firstly, the completion of the Surface Water Treatment Plant, which initially began construction 10 years ago, is scheduled to be finished in October.

The second option, which Del Oro themselves mentioned in the meeting, was the drilling of new wells in the River Island service area. Similar to the treatment plant, LSCE says the drilling of new wells is doable, but will take time to complete.

In the meantime, many residents are still left without access to potable water, if any water at all. The residents who do have access to water are being urged by Del Oro to conserve where they can. This plea is echoed by LSCE, who recommends implementing conservation measures that would include the “elimination of all outside watering for the remainder of the summer.”

However, this will likely not bode well with residents as many expressed their reluctance to conserve water, when they reported that they have little to none to begin with.

During the meeting, one resident mentioned that the greenery on their property is already dead, something which had cost them thousands of dollars of landscaping to put in. This was something echoed by other residents. Another citizen yelled that they have only been showering once a week.

Not only that, at the July meeting it was reported that residents have continued to pay a monthly rate for water they do not have. The conference’s organizer and Springville resident Raffaella Woods mentioned that citizens have been paying over $200 a month; however, as of report, it is unclear if reimbursement is on the horizon for affected citizens.

While more immediate fixes are still being looked at, residents can attend the Community Water Distribution event to hold themselves over until more long-term solutions are established.

A muddy past comes afloat

As Springville residents have continued to appeal—both to Del Oro and the state—about their lack of proper potable water, an analogous incident has been brought back to the light by Emilie Kashtan. Kashtan provided documents detailing her and her community’s similar past experience with their water supplier, which was owned by the same person who runs Del Oro.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Kashtan, and her fellow Donner Lake resident Kathy Kessler, became activists for their community after being fed up with the poor quality of their water.

Their supplier, Donner Lake Water CO., which was bought by Del Oro water in the late 90s, had failed to meet the minimum safe drinking-water standards year after year. The unkept, rusted and leaking pipes were transporting brown, bacteria ridden water to the homes around the lake.

According to Kessler and her romantic partner, their water system went down for 30-45 days at one point due to low pressure, faulty pumps and water line breaks.

“The water company insisted the problem was that we were watering our lawns too much,” the Kesslers said. “Well, we don’t even have lawns at Donner Lake.”

On May 18, 2001, Kashtan and Kessler’s pleas for change were finally met when their lawsuit against their water suppliers was upheld by a superior court judge. That following Monday, the order took effect, and the company was turned over to public officials by eminent domain.

“We got under people’s skins, got on their nerves,” Kessler said. “We did our homework and didn’t quit because lots of sick and elderly people needed a voice when it came to the quality of their water.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article that reported on the issue at the time, ”Officials (said) the women’s victory could have resonance with hundreds of isolated California communities that rely on small purveyors for their drinking water.”

Now, 22 years later, it seems that may not be the case given the similar complaints launched against Del Oro by Springville residents. Even Kashtan has recently spoken up against Del Oro, urging the state to step in as they had in the past.

“It would be nice if the water agencies, our Governor and the appropriate governing representatives get involved with this water district owner (Robert Fortino), and straighten out the mess he continues to propagate,” she said in an email sent out to multiple California state employees and representatives.

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