COMPTON (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County officials have begun the process of dissolving the small but embattled Sativa Water District following months of protest from customers regarding discolored water.

On Wednesday, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn voted to begin proceedings to dissolve Sativa, which serves about 1,600 customers in Compton and Willowbrook.

A resident holds a glass of brown water at a Compton town hall meeting. May 2, 2018. (CBS2)

In April, Sativa customers began complaining that brown water was running through their taps.

“This looks like urine, and it’s coming out of all the sinks,” Compton resident Ricardo Calderon told CBS2 as he held a large container of murky-looking water.

Water district officials alleged that the discolored water was safe to drink, stating that it was simply the result of a process of flushing the district’s 80-year-old pipes as part of a new program to remove mineral and sediment buildup. The flushing process is down four times a year.

“Water delivered to homes during our flushing process may be discolored, but it poses no threat to residents’ health and is safe,” Sativa General Manager Maria Rachelle Garza said back in April.

At a town hall meeting in May, L.A. County Department of Public Health officials said the water had been tested and no bacteria was found in the samples, but did contain high levels of manganese. However, LACDPH reiterated Sativa’s claim that there was no health or safety threat.

“This problem can only be solved through an infrastructure upgrade,” Garza said at that meeting. “Our pipes are 70 and 80 years old. We’re doing the best we can.”

A Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) report reiterated Garza’s concerns, determining that Sativa “suffers from ongoing operational issues, including a lack of adequate water sources and storage capacity, an absence of water meters, aging water mains, inadequate operational and management resources, and an inactive contaminated well that needs to be properly destroyed,” Hahn said in a news release.

Hahn is also asking the county to explore a ratepayer subsidy to help pay for the repairs and upgrades to Sativa’s water supply system.

“People have a right to clean, safe water,” Hahn said. “Dissolving the Sativa Water District is the first step to ensuring these residents get the clean, drinkable water that they deserve.”

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