Northern California town close to running out of water (July 17, 2017)

DAVENPORT, Calif. — Despite the wettest winter in years, the town of Davenport is close to running out of water.

A major waterline was damaged during the 2017 winter storms. Santa Cruz County declared an emergency and tapped into Mill Creek, but that source will run dry by the end of summer.

The damaged pipeline belongs to Cemex Corp., however, the Texas-based company refuses to pay $220,000 in repair costs.

So the bill is being passed down to Davenport’s 400 residents. Those 400 residents already have the highest water bills in the county.

At a Thursday news conference, Supervisor Ryan Coonerty called out Cemex for its irresponsibility for not stepping up to meet its responsibility to the community to pay for repair costs.

“In order to address a significant health and safety concern for the people of Davenport, the county, at my urging, decided to repair Cemex’ water lines,” Coonerty said. “We have tried to work with Cemex to get them to repair this critical water line, but while Cemex has been out trying to sell the water rights, they are neglecting to maintain the water infrastructure that serves this low-income community. If this situation is not resolved, the county may be forced to take legal action.”

Santa Cruz County issued the following press release below:

“Taking extraordinary action to restore the town of Davenport’s water supply, the Davenport County Sanitation District on Thursday announced emergency repairs to assure the continued health and safety of the community.

Historically, water infrastructure owner Cemex Corp. has maintained the water lines that supply the town of Davenport. However, the company declined to repair $220,000 in storm damages to assure the continued delivery of water to hundreds of residents, forcing the Davenport County Sanitation District to take matters into its own hands. Since February, Davenport had been relying on a backup water supply that is expected to go dry within weeks.

For more than a century, operators of the Davenport Cement Plant supplied and subsidized the town of Davenport with clean, reliable water from San Vicente Creek. When the plant closed in 2010, Davenport water bills increased substantially, placing a burden on town residents, many of whom are low-income. Shifting the cost of winter storm damage to Davenport residents will have further severe impacts.”

Cemex spokesperson Walker Robinson issued the following statement to KSBW Thursday afternoon:

“CEMEX works to be a good neighbor in communities surrounding our facilities, even in situations where our plants have ceased operations. It is disappointing that Santa Cruz County officials are suggesting anything less in Davenport. The City of Davenport developed around the cement plant when it was established more than 100 years ago, and the plant was the original water source for the community. CEMEX closed the Davenport plant in 2010, and since then continued to make water available to the County water treatment facility at no cost to the County.

“The damage to the main water line that was caused by major storms earlier this year did not occur on CEMEX property. CEMEX did discuss the issues caused by the storm damage with County staff and sent a letter to Santa Cruz County leaders in May offering them access so the County could make the repairs the County deemed necessary. The attempt to cast this as CEMEX cutting off water supplies is disappointing. CEMEX recognizes the importance of a reliable water supply and continues to make water available to Davenport through a backup line.”

Source: Phil Gomez, KSBW