Contaminated Alpaugh Water

High Levels of Arsenic in the City's Water
July 30, 2008 7:27:45 PM PDT
A vote in Alpaugh could raise water rates for the 800 residents of the small Tulare County town.Some neighbors want to know why they should pay more for water that's contaminated.

"It makes the water halfway decent ... Do you drink the water? No, it's basically for cooking."

Alpaugh resident Eric Jenkins shows us the water that goes through a filter he installed on his kitchen sink. He still won't drink it, but there's a clear difference between that water and water that runs through the tape in the bathroom.

"This is without a filter."

Jenkins says he brushes his teeth with bottled water. He isn't happy about the proposed rate increase, especially when he spends up to $45 a month buying bottled water for the house.

Eric Jenkins: "It is another added expense. You know, it's almost as much as my electricity bill."

Members of a local activist group have helped Alpaugh residents ban together to fight the rate increase. They say the tap water contains dangerous levels of arsenic.

Susana DeAnda, Community Water Center: "Alpaugh will potentially be facing the state's highest water rates for toxic drink water."

The Alpaugh joint powers authority agrees that the water has high levels of arsenic. They say the water is drinkable but acting executive director Melisa Howard doesn't drink the water herself. She says the cost of chlorine and the district's electricity bills have doubled in the last year.

Melissa Howard, Alpaugh Joint Powers Authority: "When the rates were set in 2003 they were set on the cost of producing water at that time and since then everything's gone up so much that we are going in the hole every month."

Eric Jenkins: "You have no alternative. You either drink the water or buy bottled water you have no choice. And it is cheaper to live here but a lot of people here either retired or low income."

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