Local Water Leaders Criticize Poway Water Contamination Response, Mayor Fights Back

The ‘East County Clean Water Coalition’ believes the Poway Mayor could have handled the incident better, the Poway Mayor responds: “I wouldn’t change anything that we did”  

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Water leaders from across the county came together Tuesday for a press conference to discuss Poway’s recent water contamination that left people and businesses without water for a week.

The group of local leaders are calling themselves the ‘East County Clean Water Coalition.’ The coalition consists of Frank Hilliker of the San Diego County Water Authority, Steve Robak with the Lakeside Water District, De Ana Verbeke of the Helix Water District and Steve Johnson with the Lakeside Water District.

The group of water leaders are upset at the way Mayor Steve Vaus handled the Poway water contamination incident. Some also believe that Poway’s mayor and city council failed to keep the water infrastructure safe.

“With the boil water still in place and testing still being done, Mayor Steve Vaus repeatedly said, 'The water's safe I’m drinking it, I'm giving it to my pets'. Making these irresponsible comments prior to final testing results was reckless,” said Frank Hilliker of the San Diego County Water Authority.

The leaders are also supporters of Mayor Vaus’ political opponent for County Supervisor seat, former State Senator Joel Anderson. When asked if Tuesday’s press conference had anything to do with politics, San Diego County Water Authority board member, Frank Hilliker, said Tuesday's meeting was solely about public safety.

"How is that relevant to public safety? We're talking about public safety and we’re talking about clean water. How is that relevant to all the businesses that had to close and lose thousands of dollars, and then they're gonna have to spend thousands of dollars to clean everything?," said Frank Hilliker of the San Diego County Water Authority.

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus spoke to NBC7 about Tuesday's press conference, criticizing the city of Poway's response to the water contamination incident.

“This isn’t about dirty water. This is about dirty politics. They’re working on behalf of a desperate and disgraced candidate whose been in trouble more times than I can count. People are tired of politics like that. I’m proud of how Poway responded to this water crisis. We have faced many challenges and we always do the same thing: we come together. So, I would change nothing about what I did and I’m eternally grateful to our public works staff that worked around the clock to get us back online," said Poway Mayor Steve Vaus.

On Nov. 30, Poway issued a Precautionary Boil Water Advisory after residents reported “discolored water” coming from their taps the day prior. Recent rain caused problems in the city's reservoir when the reservoir became contaminated by a backed-up storm drain.

The notice meant that only boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking and making ice to brushing teeth and making food. It forced restaurants to apply for modified health permits to remain open for business.

Chef preparing pizza in Poway

The advisory was lifted on Dec. 6. A Restaurant Week event was created to help the Poway restaurants that had to shut down or apply for a modified health permit to stay open.

“They’re being really generous. They’re coming in, they’re tipping extra, they’re being really sweet. I think it’s super awesome that the community cares that much," said Jaeden Howard, Server at Sushi Lounge.

“It’s a very family-oriented community with great businesses and they deserve to be supported," said John Sullivan, Poway resident.

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