Fresno mayoral candidates sound off on city water problems

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Candidates Henry Perea, Lee Brand and other city leaders all discussed how they plan to solve the contaminated water that's plagued homes in North Fresno. (KFSN)

Mayoral Candidate Henry Perea has taken credit for pushing the city to launch its survey of city residents to learn the true extent of the corrosion problem affecting plumbing.

But city officials claim it was already planned. Perea, who is currently a county supervisor, says it's an issue the city must help the people deal with.

"There's no question in my mind these are city customers, the city is providing a service is charging for the service and the city should be helping to make sure as that water enters their homes that it remains clean when it comes out of their faucets," Perea said.

Perea's opponent in the Mayors Race, City Council Member Lee Brand feels the same.

"My goal as a councilman, my goal as a mayor is that every citizen in this city has safe drinking water that's not discolored," he said. "Doesn't have any elevated levels of lead that's my goal and that should be the goal of anybody that's an elected official."

Brand has already proposed providing about $750,000 in assistance, in the form of grants or low-interest loans to help those with corroded pipes.

The city council approved, but the measure has not been finalized, and Perea says, show me the money.

"No, it doesn't go far enough and the challenge they have right now even though they've proposed it they haven't funded it," Perea said.

Brand accuses Perea of playing politics.

"So, it's all about politics. I'm a problem solver, not an opportunist and I will be that way as long as I am an elected officials," Brand said.

It's also an issue in the race for the city council seat in District 6. So far the area most affected by the discolored and in some cases lead-contaminated water.

Candidate Jeremy Pearce says his opponent, former City Council Member Garry Bredefeld should have been aware of the problem before it started. Bredefeld served on the council from 1997 until 2000.

The first complaints about rusty water came in 2004 from just a few residents. But Pearce says a 1998 study about the then proposed water treatment plant predicted problems.

"And those on the council at the time, including Garry Bredefeld, didn't speak up and now we have unsafe drinking water," Pearce said.

Bredefeld says Pearce's allegation about the study is all wet.

"The council was not aware of, it was an in-house study that was done in the water department it never came before the city council at all," he said.

And Bredefeld said if elected, clean water will be his priority.

"We should have no water that is lead-tainted in anyone's home," Bredefeld said.

It's been suggested the problem of premature pipe corrosion leading to iron and in some cases lead leaching out of plumbing has been linked to substandard pipes and corrosive city water.

The city is now taking aggressive action to deal with the problem.

"This issue is not going to go away in the next six months, it's only going to get bigger," Perea said.

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