Thornton residents complain that their water tastes bad and causes brown stains to their clothes. And they plan to tell the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors all about it at an upcoming meeting.
County officials, however, maintain that there is no health issue in Thornton, though they admit the water may have a displeasing taste and can cause laundry to become discolored, adding there is no health problem.
A group of Thornton residents were ready to attend next Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors in Stockton until they found out the board won't meet again until Aug. 3. A community meeting is scheduled for next Thursday at Thornton's Portuguese Hall.
"The water comes out brown," said Virginia Madueno, who works part-time for a nonprofit organization called Clean Water Action. "I've had ladies show me their washing machine where the inside of their machine is red and rusty, so it stains their clothes."
The water contains manganese, which county Deputy Public Works Director Steve Winkler says is not a health hazard.
You never know from day to day whether the tap water in Thornton will be discolored or not, residents say. On Thursday, the water appeared quite normal.
"Even if you let it run, it's still brownish-red," Thornton resident Brian Erich said on Thursday.
"Sometimes it has an odor to it," Thornton resident JoAnn Hollison added.
Jerri Thornton, whose last name is actually the same as the community in which she lives, describes the water as having a "gassy, rotten egg smell."
Thornton added, "I buy things to mask the taste like Kool-Aid and iced tea."
Madueno said that her organization, based in San Francisco, wanted to "work the Central Valley" because rural areas often have water quality problems. Several months ago, she talked to an official from the California Department of Public Health who has since retired.
The state official told Madueno about Thornton, so she went to the community several times to survey residents.
"It sounds like there's an outside group coming to Thornton and stirring things up," Winkler said. "They haven't talked to us."
Winkler said he's only received two or three complaints about water in the past year, and not all of them were about water quality.
Clean Water Action's website has a full page on Thornton, titled "Thornton: A story of neglect."
It would require a multi-million dollar investment to construct a filtration plant and several thousand dollars annually to maintain, Winkler said. The cost would have to be borne completely by water users in Thornton, he added.
Residents vote every five years if they want a new filtration system or want to keep things as they are, Winkler said. Another vote will be required in September of this year to consider extending a "waiver" of state contamination laws for another five years, Madueno said.
"The waiver for this community expires in September," according to the Clean Water Action website. "It is likely that the county will seek to continue to provide substandard water to this community."
Meanwhile, residents often buy bottled water. One woman said she even buys bottled water to bathe her baby, Madueno said.
"I think it is wrong, absolutely wrong," she added.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community meeting in Thornton next week
A community meeting regarding Thornton's water quality is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Thursday at Our Lady of Fatima Community Hall, also known as the Portuguese Hall, 26590 N. Sacramento Blvd., Thornton.
— News-Sentinel staff.
Clean Water Action at a glance
Clean Water Action is a nationwide nonprofit organization with more than one million members, volunteers and professional staff.
Goals include strengthening the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking
Water Act and Superfund for toxic cleanup. The California program works with San Joaquin Valley communities that organization members say have contaminated drinking water.
Founded in 1972, Clean Water Action has 17 regional offices. For more information, call the San Francisco office at 415-369-9160 or visit www.cleanwateraction.org.
— Source: Clean Water Action.