FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After months of controversy over the discolored water and corroded pipe issue in Northeast Fresno, Mayor Ashley Swearengin has vowed to help fix it.
"I can absolutely commit that the investigation will be done and all necessary and appropriate actions will be taken."
She noted appropriate action included adjusting the chemistry of the water coming from the city's treatment plant and wells. Not necessarily re-plumbing the hundreds of affected homes.
"We've got affected homeowners, a couple hundred that are convinced it's one hundred percent the city's problem and fault, and they are very upset. They have been ignored for many years and I would be feeling the same way if I were them," said Swearengin. "At the other end of the rope, though, we've got a lot of other ratepayers and hundreds of thousands of people in the city saying, 'hey, I don't want to be responsible for someone's private mistake.' And both sides are counting on us getting it right."
And getting it right also involves finding out why citizen complaints about discolored water were not properly directed.
"Number one-- who made the decision to route customer complaints directly to the former water treatment facility operator outside the city's normal reporting protocol," said Swearengin.
Swearengin claims former water plant manager Robert Moorhead directed complaints to his personal computer and cell phone so previous administrations were not aware of the extent of the problem.
Moorhead was terminated in 2011, but in recent months Moorhead has been in contact with local residents with water problems. In a July 9th email responding to a resident asking for records, Moorhead said He would check his personal laptop for records. Since he often talked with homeowners after work regarding this issue and emailed his boss and others his findings concerns and suggestions. Swearengin wants that information.
"We are not sure what is in Mr. Moorhead's possession. The city attorney has issued a letter requiring him to return any documents any records."
But as to the claim city officials were not aware of the problem, emails provided by residents to Action News show some city council members and others were getting complaints about water from residents since 2005. Those who received the emails including former City Council Member Jerry Duncan told Action News they were assured it was a limited problem being dealt with by the water department.
In the meantime of the nearly 400 homes with test results, 52 have lead above the federal action standard of 15 parts per billion in at least one faucet. Eighty-six had lower levels and 225 had no trace of lead.
Health experts said no level of lead is safe.