Supervisors Want State Help in Lucerne Valley Water Emergency

Supervisors asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency in Lucerne Valley after water trucks supplying desert residents were impounded by the state, which said it acted after residents complained of the quality of their water.

The governor's office was reviewing the request on Thursday.

The California Highway Patrol and state health officials impounded the trucks because haulers supplying eight desert communities were delivering non-potable water in unlicensed tanker trucks.

"We took action in the Lucerne Valley in response to concerns raised in the community of the quality of water there," said Suanne Buggy, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health. "Our top priority is ensuring local residents have access to safe, clean water for use in their homes."

She said the agency was "taking every step available to ensure safe, clean water is available to residents immediately."

Most residents purchased the water to drink but said they didn't mind using it for showers, evaporative coolers and toilet flushing. Some have now shut off swamp coolers and stopped flushing toilets to save water.

"There's nothing wrong with the water. We got it tested years ago and it's good, clean water," said Elsie Wenger, 86, who hasn't showered in a week. "All of us who live out of town depend on these water trucks. I don't know what to do."

The health department took three water tankers off the road during a sting operation last week, citing each for being unlicensed and unsanitary. Two trucks were impounded by CHP officers because drivers lacked the proper drivers' licenses and permits and a third tanker was ordered out of service for mechanical reasons.

Schwarzenegger ordered state agencies to send four water tankers
to the Lucerne Valley and Cal Fire trucks were making deliveries
Thursday, governor's office spokesman Bill Maile said.

Maile said the governor's office was reviewing the local state of emergency declaration sought by the Board of Supervisors.

County fire trucks began delivering non-potable water for livestock on Wednesday. The county Department of Aging and Adult Services also started contacting elderly and disabled adults, delivering bottled water to at least five households.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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