Voice For Life: speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves

State declares "obnoxious" Lerdo water unacceptable

August 8, 1996

Sheriff's Department continues to profit by refusing to clean up jail water

Chinese refugees and other inmates at Kern County's Lerdo Detention Facility continue to be subjected to tap water which has been found to be in violation of a State drinking water standard.

The refugees have complained about the condition of the water from the beginning, but it was not until this week that Tim Palmquist of Voice For Life discovered that Lerdo had been ordered to clean it up. In a letter dated January 27, 1995, Betsy Lichti of the State Department of Health Services notified Lerdo of the "continued" complaints about taste and odor problems with the Lerdo water. The letter detailed health problems which had been reported by people who had consumed the water. The most recent odor test on the Lerdo water found odor levels greater than 200 units, while the standard is 3 units.

Water problem is not unsolvable

Lichti's letter detailed a process which "should result in ... elimination of the taste and odor problems," and advised the Lerdo officials to consult with another water company which has successfully solved the same problem with one of their wells. Demanding a response by February 15, 1995, Lichti noted that "it is unacceptable that the water continue to be considered obnoxious to the inmates...." Lichti confirmed on August 6, 1996 that no response was ever received from Lerdo.

Sheriff's Department profits from bad tap water

Unlike other detention facilities, Lerdo offers bottled water for sale to inmates. A 16.9 ounce bottle of water costs 89 cents, which is over 300% more than the retail price of the same product in local grocery stores. However, in spite of the exorbitant price, the bad tap water causes the refugees to feel that they have no option other than to purchase the bottled water. Sheriff Carl Sparks has refused offers from Voice For Life and an independent water distributor to donate water to the jail, which would then be provided to the refugees without cost.

Voice For Life pays for refugees' bottled water

Unlike other inmates, the Chinese women are not allowed to work. Consequently, they must rely upon donations in order to purchase water. Voice For Life has provided money for all of the women to ensure that they will be able to buy water. In addition, some of the women receive donations from relatives. To help in this effort to provide water for the Chinese refugees, send a donation to Voice For Life.

Update on water situation

Back to Chinese refugees page

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