Grand jury: Unsafe drinking water, lack of transparency in an Arden-Arcade water district

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — An almost one-square-mile water district in Arden-Arcade is at the center of a scathing grand jury report, alleging a “literal flood of concerns.”

The Del Paso Manor Water District stretches down Watt Avenue from Marconi Avenue to near Cottage Way, with El Camino cutting through to the district’s end at Eastern Avenue. It serves residents and businesses such as AT&T, Emigh Hardware and WinCo.

The water district’s “relatively small size” is what a Sacramento grand jury believes may have enabled the board to put off acting on critical issues involving health, safety and financial matters. 

Del Paso Manor Water District

The grand jury investigated the district for seven months after a formal complaint was made in January alleging “flagrant misconduct” by the board of directors. 

The grand jury, at the end of its investigation, said the board has been “reckless and irresponsible in its administration of the District’s responsibilities to residents and ratepayers.”

“The District’s elected officials have repeatedly failed to hold themselves accountable and have abdicated their primary mission to ‘provide safe drinking water in accordance with California and federal regulations and to maintain a reliable water supply for water consumption and fire protection,’” the report said.

The board also did not act transparently, which did not allow the public to be informed of important issues regarding their water, the report said. 

According to the grand jury, the district has aging infrastructure and failed to complete repairs and upgrades that would have cost about $35 million. That could potentially cause the “potential failure of the entire water complex,” ​the grand jury wrote.

Residents and businesses in the district are served by just two wells, and the water is transported through pipelines that are more than 60 years old. The district’s master plan, which documents planning strategies developed to address aging infrastructure and changing water supply pressures, is old as well, officials said. 

“This District is operating under a Water Master Plan and a Municipal Service Review which are more than a decade old,” explains Grand Jury Foreperson Deanna Hanson. “The idea that officials are doing business ‘behind the floodgates’, so to speak, does a disservice to the public and its right to understand the impact of vital safety issues, as well as the looming financial impacts.”

The grand jury also reported that the district did not timely notify customers that a water well had been contaminated with PCE, which can cause dizziness and long-term adverse effects to the liver and kidneys. 

As for management at the DPMWD, officials described the district as being in “disarray.” The district had four general managers resign in the span of two years. Most of the board of directors also left their positions in September of 2021. 

The grand jury made several recommendations, including ones addressing the need for transparency by the district.

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