Local water district insists its water is safe, despite discoloration

- Officials with a local water district serving areas including Compton and Willowbrook insisted Wednesday that water being delivered to residents is safe and meets health standards, despite residents reporting murky, rust-colored water coming from their taps.

Speaking at a news conference attended by a group of shouting, sign- waving residents, Sativa County Water District officials explained that the agency has been flushing its pipes, a procedure it undertakes four times a year to remove mineral buildup.

To demonstrate the process, the district opened a fire hydrant in front of a bank of television cameras, releasing a flow of clear water.

"What I can assure everybody is the water we provide to the homes is the same water you saw outside in the flushing,'' said Maria Rachelle Garza, general manager of the water district. "... It meets state regulations and federal regulations, and it is rigorously tested and all of this data is provided to state water (regulators).''

Her comments, however, did little to appease angry residents, who said they have had brown water coming through their faucets.

"I want them to come and put their family members in that water and drink it,'' resident Karen Lewis told news outlets. "It's not safe. It's not safe and they're not giving us any answers.''

County and state regulators collected samples from some area homes this week, but the results of their tests are still pending.

Water district officials said they are taking residents' concerns about discolored water seriously, but insisted the "water delivered to homes during our flushing process may be discolored, but it poses no threat to residents' health and is safe.''

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called the reports "alarming'' and said the county should step in.

Acting on his urgency motion, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to have the county's departments of Public Health and Public Works put together a strike team to sample and test water in the community and assess Sativa's ability to provide clean water.

Ridley-Thomas cited longstanding and unresolved "infrastructure challenges,'' which a spokeswoman said included aging water mains that need replacement and an inadequate supply of water to meet peak demand.

"Sativa customers deserve full confidence that their water is safe and clean,'' Ridley-Thomas said, warning that solutions might include dissolving Sativa and finding "a more sustainable water purveyor for the area.''

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