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Imperial County

SPECIAL REPORT: POE Pilot Project

Imperial County launches the first ever Point of Entry Pilot project - CBS 13'S Mercedes Martinez reports

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - The Point of Entry Pilot project was launched by the Imperial County Division of Environmental Health and the Imperial Irrigation District.

Jorge a. Perez, Environmental Health Services Manager, said it started with a study that Cal State San Marcos did through the National Latino Research Center. It made broad claims about the water quality in Imperial valley; regarding the "not so good" water quality.

Perez says that the State Water Board questioned what actions were being taken to provide safe water to the rural residents of Imperial County who were not connected to a municipal water system .

Perez said that, “basically the idea was to one, really get a better understanding of the water quality. and get more in depth details and see whether or not if the study was accurate or not."

He continued with saying that, "two, the one thing the study did point out was that it is difficult for some of these residents to have treated water. They’re not connected to a city water system. So obviously a lot of them don’t have the means to connect to a water or a water public water system or don’t have the means to purchase a treatment system.”

The goal with the POE Pilot project is to provide these residents with water treatment units, while gathering data from the canal network.

The Imperial Irrigation District partnered with the Imperial County Public Health Department to make it happen.

Perez mentioned that this is a project from scratch that took about one year to get going. It took up until by the end of 2019 to really get it going.

Although the project focuses on the residents who get their water from the canal system coming from the Colorado River, not everyone is eligible for the program.


Perez said that, "the program isn't quite open to everybody due to limited funding.“ They narrowed it down to folks who have limited resources. "In conjunction with the IID, we where able to kind of cross reference residents that are on the REAP (residential energy assistance program) through the IID. What we ended up doing was quarry out the people that are REAP and people that receive canal water,” said Perez.

Perez also says that, "the IID and the Health Department each pitched $200,000 of funding allowing the grant to be a total of $400,00. Funding goes towards paying for vendors' prevailing wages, equipment installations, water tests and payroll. Since funding is limited, this opportunity is based off those who first come, first are served."

Residents are able to apply online. Once the applicant is approved the vendor will evaluate the property’s water system needs to provide proper equipment installation.

SoCal Water Solutions, LLC in Imperial jumped on board to help test the water.

Norma Leep, president of SoCal Water Solutions, LLC, said that the company joined in on the project because they decided it was something they would be passionate about. Leep continues by saying that, "Being in water for 24 years, we felt like we had never had the opportunity to actually serve people through a grant program like this. And also the fact that the imperial county is the first county to pioneer a project that provides water treatment equipment at no cost seemed like something I definitely needed to be a part of.”

The first installation was done in Dec. 2019 and since then they've installed 15 units throughout the Imperial Valley ranging from Niland to Seeley, El Centro and Holtville.

Some of the residents have shared their gratitude and given positive feedback.


Norma Leep tells us that “not only do they feel safe and of course the main concern is bacteria in the water and knowing that they can brush their teeth and take showers with water that is potable considering the Safe Drinking Water Act and California standards, they have a better quality of life.”

One local who qualified for the poe pilot project shared his personal experience with us and how this opportunity sounded too good to be true.

Ralph Cowings is one of the POE project recipients who said, “the first question was, for how much? And they said no, no we’ll take care of it…and that was a no brainer as they say. I never had any reason to regret it.”

When asked about the water quality experience in Mr. Cowings' home before the water treatment installation he said, “I never took a bath in that water. I always showered and I sort of sanitized my body with alcohol afterward. Never let any water get into my mouth when I showered.”

Mr. Cowings has a pump house where his cistern is located. The canal water from the cistern was pumped and passed through pipes then sent to the pressure tank. The pressure tank sends that water into Mr. Cowings' home where he uses this water to bathe in, wash his dishes and do his laundry.

This was the original process of water going into the home of Mr. Cowings, but now a new water treatment system has been installed.

Norma Leep helped us explain how the new water treatment installed helps fight the bacteria found in the water.

The first stage filtration which is a multi-sand filter catches the bigger particles coming in from the canal water. Stage 2 is the finer filtration. The third stage consists of a California certified product which is a Harmsco filter which basically takes the water down to really fine levels of filtration. The last stage is going to be an ultraviolet light this is where the microbiological contaminants or E.Coli gets killed.

Mr. Cowings brought up a crucial point of not being able to physically see harsh elements in the water but he did describe the visible differences in his home after his water had finally been treated

When talking about his new water treatment system, Ralph Cowings said that it “made a big difference in the toilet, in the shower and the sinks. There were permanent stains that could not be removed with bleach or anything like that. Now I no longer have that problem.”

After water treatment installations, the vendor monitors the water on a monthly basis for the next two years and reports back to the Environmental Health Department.

About 64 homeowners remain on the list for the POE Pilot project and the county’s goal is to attend to all of them.

Jorge Perez said that, “as far as we know we’re the only county in the state that’s rolling out a POE treatment program. And this pilot we’re using it hopefully as a basis for a program down the line so that we really capture these 2,700 people, these households and so we’re looking to see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s pilot, it allows us to tweak it and make changes along the way which we have. And so it’s been good. It’s been fun. We still have a lot of work to do but yeah it is a unique project to our area and to the state of California.”

Ralph Cowings said “there’s a major difference in my life style because …The water doesn’t stink!”

The efforts of detailed planning, tireless research, teamwork and execution have allowed imperial county to pilot the first ever point of entry water project to help provide a basic human right of clean water to those whom are limited of such essential need.

Local News / Special Reports

Mercedes Martinez

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