Residents in an underprivileged pocket of northeastern Wildomar are still waiting to hear when they might get safe drinking water from the utility that serves them.
On Tuesday, County Water of Riverside -- a privately owned water company that serves the approximately 140 residences across from The Farm off Bundy Canyon Road -- missed a California Department of Public Health deadline to comply with a process to remedy the unsafe drinking water situation.
Residents served by the utility have been notified that their water contains unhealthy nitrate levels.
Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster, whose district includes Wildomar, said Thursday he was awaiting an update on the situation, and Jeff Johnson, program chief with the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health, said all options are being reviewed and the county intends “to move as quickly as possible.”
Current County Water of Riverside owner Lori Spears did not return a call for comment Thursday.
Wildomar Mayor Ben Benoit said problems with County Water of Riverside date back nearly a decade.
“This has been going on for years,” he said of missed deadlines, poor service and unsafe water.
Benoit acknowledged that the water company may end up in receivership with the county, but that legal tangle -- and cost -- doesn’t concern long-time affected resident Robyn Lippincott. She just wants safe water.
“Most of the time, the water looks like milk. We’re not supposed to drink it or give it to our pets,” the 54-year-old County Water of Riverside customer said, “but we can’t afford to always drink bottled water.”
She’s concerned that her two children, now ages 19 and 23, drank the water growing up.
“Do you have any idea how stressful that is? Nitrates cause cancer. I cry about it every day,” Lippincott said.
Her husband George admitted he ceased paying the water bill.
“When they stop poisoning the water, I will pay,” he said.
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District spokesman Greg Morrison said his agency has the infrastructure in place nearby to hook up County Water of Riverside users, but the cost, timeframe and legal implications are currently unknown.
“We certainly sympathize with the customers out there. It’s very unfortunate,” he said.
Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore) represents residents in the affected area. As a former EVMWD board member (1990-1998) and a board member for Eastern Municipal Water District (1998-2000), Jeffries said the state and county have looked away too long.
“We need to get the government entities together,” he said. “We’re not trying to send someone to the moon. The water is there.”
Jeffries conceded that the big question is, “who will pay?”
He said emergency state funding might be available, but the county needs to apply.
In the meantime he said, “Residents shouldn’t have to be drinking unsafe water.”