August 8, 2007

Lucerne Valley still without water

Kenneth Stewart, a resident of Lucerne Valley, siphons water from barrels transported to his property from a friend’s house. San Bernardino County declared a state of emergency Wednesday and is working on providing water to Lucerne Valley residents.

by Ryan Orr
Victor Valley Daily Press

LUCERNE VALLEY — More than 200 angry Lucerne Valley residents gathered Tuesday night demanding that the state give them their water back.

“This is kind of like giving everyone a death sentence,” said C.J. Spratt, a 15-year resident of Lucerne Valley who can’t provide water for his livestock.

A sting operation last week orchestrated by the California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug branch and the California Highway Patrol shut down Lucerne Valley water haulers for not having proper permits or transporting non-potable water.

“The state has created the disaster by turning the water off,” said Bob Smith, candidate for the 34th Assembly District. “We’re talking about people that need a vital resource.”

Despite a representative from the state health department being at the meeting, residents felt there was little progress made, many yelling, “free our water haulers.”

Paula Nowicki, Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt’s chief of staff, said that once the state starts an investigation and finds that unsanitary water is being delivered, it can’t be undone.

Debbie Mills said she cannot find a licensed water hauler to deliver to her remote desert home, and with only enough water to make it through one more hot weekend, is worried about her disabled son.

On Monday, Lea Brooks, a health department spokeswoman said that if the water haulers applied for the proper licenses and made a good will effort to come into compliance they would be allowed to operate while their applications were pending.

As of Tuesday night, residents — many that have already gone five days without water — said that none of the water haulers was back in service.

“I don’t want to die,” said one little girl who took the microphone at the meeting. “If we don’t get water, we will die.”

San Bernardino County, who was not notified of the sting operation, delivered 336 gallons of bottled water to Lucerne Valley Tuesday and another delivery is planned for today, said Nowicki.

She is exploring other options to get water to the residents of Lucerne Valley as soon as possible.