Davenport is on the verge of running out of water. At issue is who should pay for repairs to the main water pipeline that serves the small community north of Santa Cruz: the cement plant that owns the town's water infrastructure or residents.
The CEMEX cement plant has always been tied to Davenport. The town was actually established to house its workers. The plant also maintained Davenport’s water lines, even after the plant closed 7 years ago.
So when 2017 winter storms damaged the pipeline connecting the community to its main water source, the San Vicente River, the expectation was CEMEX would fix it.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty spoke at a press conference Thursday along Highway 1 across from the shuttered plant.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating because this is CEMEX’s infrastructure and they’ve refused to repair it,” Coonerty said.
Davenport has been getting water via a backup pipeline connecting to Mill Creek. But Mill Creek is about to run dry.
“We are within weeks of this community running out of water,” Coonerty said.
So with no action from CEMEX, the county started the repairs. It will cost $220,000, and the county wants CEMEX to pick up the tab. But in a statement, CEMEX says the damage did not occur on its property. And, “the attempt to cast this as CEMEX cutting off water supplies is disappointing.”
If CEMEX doesn’t pay, the county says the 400 people who live in Davenport will have to foot the bill.
“They’re a multi-billion dollar company and they’re trying to put this cost onto a small, federally designated low income community. It’s just patently unfair and irresponsible,” Coonerty said.
Annie Parker has lived in Davenport for 30 years.
“It’s a huge amount of money. But then, just as important of course is the fact that we need to have water. And that’s a natural given for any human being, you know, you need to have water to drink and bathe and so on,” said Parker.
The county is searching for grant opportunities to cover the repair cost, but says it may also pursue legal action against CEMEX.