Jul 23, 2018
Faced with protests from angry residents, California state authorities announced they would dissolve the Sativa water district, which had been delivering brown, smelly water to 1600 homes in a working-class area near Los Angeles. Residents in Willowbrook and some parts of Compton had been complaining for years that, on and off, the water from their faucets ran brown, and smelled of rust and chlorine.
The board of Sativa had said that, with its small revenue (currently about $1.3 million a year), they lacked the means to replace the aged, corroded water pipes. County and state authorities, who are supposed to oversee utilities, refused to take responsibility either. Twice before, since 2005, they told protesters they did not have a way to make sure Sativa’s 1600 customers got clean water.
County and state officials actually told residents of the area that the brown, smelly water running out of their faucets was safe to drink, even though they acknowledged that the water contained high levels of manganese, a toxin known to cause neurological disorders such as muscle spasms and shaking.
The residents knew better. They pushed their protests forward, demanding clean water, as well as compensation for the bottled water they had been forced to buy.
The state’s announcement of shutting down Sativa is one battle won by the residents; but their struggle is certainly not over. Whatever “option” authorities will now offer, this working-class community will likely have to continue to fight – not only for their water to be clean and safe, but also affordable.