• Bad water: At least, bureaucrats should have read the warnings Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Javier R. Guzman, who owned the Jensen Camp Mobile Home Park in Monterey County, sued contending Monterey County health officials had a duty to warn him that the park’s water was contaminated by high levels of naturally occurring fluoride.

    A California Court of Appeal agreed. Here’s a news account of the ruling.

    Guzman had claimed the county had a duty under California state law to warn them about the potential hazard. He and other plaintiffs contended that the water system operator had been submitting reports telling the county about the situation as far back as 1995.

    Superior Court Judge Kay T. Kingsley of Monterey County said there was no mandatory duty to notify the residents. Initially, the Court of Appeal agreed.

    The California Supreme Court took the case and said there was no implied duty, but also told the appellate court to reconsider the case to determine if there was any express duty to notify in the California statutes.

    In the latest ruling, Justice Eugene M. Premo, writing for the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, concluded there was a mandatory duty under California’s Safe Drinking Water Act to tell people of the potential harm.

    Premo noted that from 1995-2002, county employees did not review reports required under state law, and did not direct the water system operator to conduct any follow-up monitoring.  Nor did the county require that the water system operator notify his customers that their drinking water was unsafe, or report violations to California healty authorities.

    The Court of Appeal noted that the county “failed to review the reports and that the reports consequently fell through the cracks and the residents continued to drink contaminated water.”

    The court also said the county does not have immunity against suits in this matter because the required review of the reports was not discretionary. The County was required to at a minimum just read the reports.

    Javier R. Guzman v. The County of MontereyCourt of Appeal  6th Dist. ( H030647)

    Steve Ingram

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