EXETER, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) -The ongoing fight for safe, drinking water in a small Tulare County town continues.
Tooleville has had toxic tap water for more than 40 years, and the wait for a solution may take another 8 years.
On Tuesday, the State held a public meeting in the neighboring City of Exeter to update residents on an ongoing water system consolidation negotiation.
Families in the 76-home town want to consolidate Tooleville’s failing water system with Exeter’s.
Last summer, the state stepped in and gave both communities a six-month deadline to come up with a solution. The deadline expired in February and there is still no agreement.
Exeter officials say they are continuing to work on their own issues.
“Supply storage, and there have been times that we’ve had to address contaminants in wells in the past,” said Adam Ennis, Exeter City administrator.
Over the last few months, both parties have been meeting to assess what needs to be fixed.
“It was determined that the City of Exeter needs at least two wells and some storage tanks. In addition, Tooleville will also need some storage tanks out in their area,” said Brian Potter with the California Division of Drinking Water.
Potter said there are a lot of moving parts to this process, and that’s why they estimate the project would not be completed until 2030. He said a lot goes into the negotiation before coming to an agreement.
“They discuss terms of how service will be carried out, possible rates of the Tooleville community, would it be the same as Exeter, would it be slightly different because it’s a mile outside of the city limits.”
Consolidation and repairs to Exeter’s existing system have a $15 million dollar price tag. The state has $130 million dollars a year for these projects.
“The state has money in a fund, but you have to go through a process to apply for it and actually get it tied to this project,” said Ennis.
It’s still unclear when or if there will be an official agreement between both parties, but the state has the authority to force consolidation.
Potter said they will wait before they step in.
“Working with two willing parties tends to lead to a better outcome than forcing both parties to consolidate,” he said, adding that the state has emergency funding in case there’s a water outage like the one Tooleville suffered last summer.
Potter said they will also be looking at ways to shorten the eight-year timeline.
“Even though we’re two streets, we’re a small community, but we do matter too,” said longtime Tooleville resident, Noemi Barrera.