By Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun
Recently the Bella Vista tract of Weldon received bad news via the Bella Vista Mutual Water Company which came with a stern warning. BOIL YOUR WATER! A Facebook post went out with the boil water notice on September 9. However, this whole issue began on September 7 when a power surge rendered two motors in the well pumps that feed the communities water useless. Ultimately this led to residents being unable to use basic water amenities and left the water in the wells open to bacteria growth from stagnation. Of the 54 houses within the Buena Vista community of Weldon none have received an official notice of ‘business as usual’. For those of the community who are not residents of tract 3027 this may seem like isolated news. However, upon further investigation the Kern Valley Sun has found that this has been an ongoing issue for the past year. Residents who have reached out to the Sun have had enough. Constant issues of power outages from Southern California Edison coupled with the issues of water shortages in the area have been a huge impact on the mostly retired senior population of the community.
At the end of February of this year vandals destroyed equipment on the Bella Vista Mutual Water Company’s property causing a water outage for a good deal of time. Of the 50+ houses in the community, all experienced a drop in pressure or no water at all. For the senior citizens, who inhabit this tract of land, showers and drinking water are a necessity to maintaining comfortability in the mostly rugged high desert terrain. Even now flushing the toilet has become an issue for residents. One resident who wishes to remain anonymous says she has been using gallon jugs of water to fill her toilet for flushing. Over the course of the year residents have said the water has shut off or lost pressure four times.
Ed Shortall, a resident of the Buena Vista community says that within the last two years there has been a change of hands in the Buena Vista Mutual Water Company. Former owner Gerald Hynamen had recently passed as of a year and a half ago. Shortall says that Gerald Hyneman, “kept everything close to the vest” and “was a good man.” Now, after the death of Gerald Hyneman, his son Don Hyneman, has taken control of the ownership. D. Hyneman, who operates the business out of Georgia, has since contracted another company, Tradewinds Water Association, Inc., to handle billing and the monitoring of meters. Shortall says that the equipment is outdated and that the person in charge of maintaining those pumps lacks the resources to do so considering that the fuses in them are no longer manufactured. Shortall continues to explain that equipment updates are rare if they are issued at all.
When Tradewinds took over monitoring the water source residents say the bill began to increase. Residents pay a flat rate fee for 20,000 gallons of water. Anything more than that and the price begins to go up. Shortall says the billing system has been a complete mess since the transition to Tradewinds. One resident even says that she received a late bill one week after having paid her portion of the share for her water even though the late policy requires 60 days to issue a fee.
The biggest issue for Shortall in particular is the lack of communication about the water systems issues. He states that most of the time these issues arise is when he goes to turn on the tap. Although the pump has since been replaced with equipment borrowed from an unknown Ridgecrest source, the water has been soiled with sand and other debris. This was initially the reason there was a public warning to resident to boil their water. Even though well water does come with particles, the sand in particular starts to cause trouble in the plumbing out on the tract.
If anything residents of the tract are speaking up about these issues and are considering it to be a failure of procedure.
This story is ongoing and is meant to shed a light on the very quiet disputes that these community members are having. For one small ripple effects many. The Kern Valley Sun will continue to update the public on these issues and it is with hopes that the community at large will take notice.