Mayor: Water Crisis critics are politically motivated

water faucet
Posted at 6:58 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 21:58:24-05

POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) Poway's mayor is responding to critics who are slamming him for how he handled the recent boil water advisory.

Nearly 200 businesses were forced to close for six days over fears that the water might have been contaminated during recent storms.

Tuesday morning, a group calling itself "The East County Coalition for Clean Water" held a news conference at Lake Poway.

The members are from the Helix and Lakeside Water Districts, and one is from the San Diego County Water Authority.

The regional water officials said they'd been getting calls from constituents worried about their water supply, which was not affected by the boil water advisory.

"The mishandling of the Poway contamination incident erodes the confidence of the public of all the water boards," said Lakeside Water District Member Frank Hilliker, who said he was speaking as a private citizen and not in an official capacity.

Hilliker said Poway Mayor Steve Vaus was "asleep at the wheel."

"The buck stops with the mayor of Poway, and he was slow to react," said Hilliker.

Hilliker also said it was irresponsible for the mayor to say he was continuing to drink the water before testing was complete.

Mayor Vaus said he wouldn't do anything differently.

"I told people I was drinking water. I did drink the water. I gave it to my pets, cause I knew and I repeatedly said, all of our tests were fine. Sacramento was way behind Poway in getting their clearances," said Mayor Vaus.

The mayor said the criticism has more to do with dirty politics than dirty water.

"These are a bunch of elected's doing the dirty work for a desperate and disgraced candidate for county supervisor," said Vaus.

The mayor is referring to former state Senator Joel Anderson, who is running against Vaus in the race for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

"All 4 or 5 people who were listed on the press release are supporting my opponent in the county supervisor race, an opponent who is in desperate straights according to the polling," said Vaus.

When reporters asked Hilliker if he was supporting Anderson, he insisted the news conference was about public safety.

"How is that relevant to public safety? Again, we're talking about public safety and clean water," said Hilliker.

The group also blamed the mayor for not maintaining equipment.

Last week, a state official indicated that part of the system was not in compliance with state regulations.

"There was a comment in the media from someone with the State Water Quality Control Board saying something or other was wrong with our set up. Well, our set up has been the same for 50 years. We've maintained it impeccably, he signed off on it a few months ago, nothing has changed since then," said Mayor Vaus.

The mayor said the city would submit an incident report to the state and make any necessary repairs.

Meanwhile, the Poway Chamber of Commerce is launching restaurant month until January 10th in an attempt to help the businesses.