Water restored to Trona after quakes

Recovery efforts addressed at packed Town Hall

Water restored to Trona after quakesBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

“You guys have water today,” announced Searles Domestic Water Co. Manager Audrey Schuyler during a Trona Town Hall on July 10. “I’m very happy to report that.”

She said water service was still out for Pioneer Point, but that it was back up and running for the majority of Trona and the surrounding areas.

Hundreds of Searles Valley residents, still reeling from the 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes last week, packed the Trona High School Gym Wednesday morning where they heard from San Bernardino County, state and federal representatives as well as officials representing public health, tax, construction, insurance and emergency services.

“We still have some smaller leaks to button up,” said Schuyler, who urged residents to keep an eye out for and report any leaks. The water company’s office is one of the community’s dozens of red-tagged buildings and is currently closed. The temporary office can be reached through Trona Security at 760-372-2991.

Since the first big quake hit on July 4, good samaritans from nearby communities and relief organizations have been delivering a steady stream of drinking water and other supplies to Trona. But for days, residents had no water for laundry, bathing or cooling.

San Bernardino Fire Department Public Information Officer Tracey Martinez, who moderated the meeting, added that residents should continue to boil their water until notified otherwise from the water company.

According to the Water Company, if residents are unable to boil water, they are advised to chlorinate their water with 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water after filtering the water through a clean cloth.

San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder-Clerk Bob Dutton was also present, and announced that many residents would be eligible for property tax relief in light of the calamity. Property owners with earthquake damage are advised to file claims with the county assessor within 12 months of the incident.

Another obstacle for Searles Valley residents is the temporary closure of the post office. While mail is still being delivered to Trona, customers must retrieve P.O. Box mail from the Ridgecrest Post Office(800-275-8777). “We apologize for this inconvenience to our customers and hope to have this office reopened and fully operational again as soon as possible.”

Authorities have opened up a Local Assistance Center at Trona High School, which is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The LAC is designed to act as a “one-stop location” for relief services, free of charge, and can be reached at 877-410-8829. The Trona Library will also be open daily as a cooling center from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Residents were largely appreciative of the information and availability of services, but one question from the public was “why did it take three days for any help to get to us?”

San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood responded and said that county officials were working behind the scenes to restore services immediately following the quakes.

“I know it’s frustrating,” said Lovingood. “I know we’re never going to be quick enough and we’re never going to satisfy everybody. It’s a national tragedy that’s impacted your life. It’s not an excuse, but it’s never fast enough.”

San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Mike Horton added that any homebound members of the community were encouraged to put up “food,” “water” or “help” signs in their windows as Senior Care Center (760-382-7575) officials would be patrolling the community for residents in need of assistance.

San Bernardino County Emergency Services Manager Michael Antonucci said that with an official declaration of a disaster, Federal Emergency Management Agency would begin a damages assessment of the Searles Valley area on Friday, after which Trona and the surrounding areas would be eligible for government relief funds.

In the meantime, Trona continues to rely on the kindness of its neighbors. Casa Corona of Ridgecrest travelled to the Town Hall to offer free lunch for more than 400 people after the meeting. See our community section for how other volunteers are contributing the earthquake relief efforts.

Story First Published: 2019-07-11