South Valley community no longer has to worry about water contaminated by arsenic

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Arsenic contamination has kept the water off for residents in the small South Valley community of Matheny Tract for years. (KFSN)

Arsenic contamination has affected residents in the small South Valley community of Matheny Tract for years. Now, they'll no longer need to rely on bottled water for cooking and drinking.

Tim Denny has been drinking bottled water for two years, but Tuesday he will finally have a glass of water from his own faucet. It's not quite as tasty as the water he remembers from his youth, but it is Tulare city water, and it is safe. That was not something residents of Matheny Tract have had for a while, as they've been living with water that's contaminated with arsenic.

"This is a historic day here in Matheny Tract that we're getting drinkable water (that) hasn't been potable for many years," Denny said.

"This is a good example of how a larger system can really reach out to a smaller system," said Chad Fischer, with the state's division of drinking water.

Fischer, with the state's division of drinking water, said two months ago under senate bill 88, the state issued an order to the city of Tulare to start delivering their water to residents of Matheny Tract.

Tuesday marks the state's first consolidation since the law went into effect last year.

"We used that authority and we think that unlocked some doors and really brought everybody in line, and we were able to accomplish it quite quickly after that order was issued," said Fischer.

Two years ago, crews finished a $5-million infrastructure project to bring city water to Matheny Tract. But since that time, there have been issues relating to jurisdiction and water supply, even lawsuits over the terms of an agreement between the city and Matheny Tract.

As recent as two weeks ago, volunteers were still delivering bottled water to residents.

"We had to make sure that the system could handle the 330 connections out there, turning them all on at one time. So it was more of a capacity issue than a concern with money. There was never a concern with money," said Joe Carlini, Tulare Public Works Director.

About 1,500 residents will now be hooked up to city water, including Denny, who won't have to worry about water tainted with arsenic anymore. He's done his best to conserve during the drought, and now that they're under a metered water system, he hopes now his neighbors can too.

The lawyer representing Matheny Tract residents said there's more to come for this neighborhood. Residents are working to get a better sewer system and also get some funding for basic infrastructure needs.

Related Topics:
drinking watertulare countycontaminated watertulare
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