In East Porterville, Tomas Garcia and his family haul water to their home to use for showers, toilets, and dishes. Only bottled water is safe to drink. The stress of the situation strained Mr. Garcia’s high blood pressure and diabetes; others in his community had suicidal thoughts. In Seville, Rebecca Quintana and her family relied on costly bottled water to replace the tap water contaminated by a high level of nitrates until a new well could be installed. The lack of access to clean water takes its daily toll on communities like East Porterville and Seville across the San Joaquin Valley.
Matheny Tract residents first received notice in 2006 that their drinking water, provided to them by Pratt Mutual Water Company, was contaminated with an excessive amount of arsenic. Pratt Mutual’s distribution system was deteriorating, and residents were clearly paying the price. Matheny Tract is a small, unincorporated community made up of 1,200 residents. The majority of the population is Latino, and almost a third of the residents live below the federal poverty line. Since the community is unincorporated, residents can’t vote in city elections and don’t have access to municipal services.