The Crescenta Valley County Water District is threatening to sharply restrict water supplies to 25 properties in La Crescenta and La Canada Flintridge unless they hook up to the public sewer system by the end of the month.
District officials said they are ready to install flow-restrictor devices in the water lines of those properties on May 29, cutting the maximum flow of water from more than 30 gallons a minute to about half a gallon a minute. That would provide enough water only for cooking, drinking and basic sanitary needs.
"We sincerely hope we don't have to install flow restrictors," said Robert K. Argenio, general manager of the water district. "We would be happy to work with them to avoid this."
But, he explained, property owners have had up to two years to build the sewer connections and have received several notices about the deadlines.
If the water cutbacks don't bring compliance, property owners could face fines of up to $500 and a six-month prison term under a district ordinance. In addition, officials can install the hookups as an emergency health measure and place a lien on the property for reimbursement.
However, no steps have been taken toward those harsher enforcement methods, Argenio said, adding that several of the 25 parties involved had contacted the district's office to say that they intend to comply soon.
The properties, mainly residences, are in the district's Unit I sewer system, which serves the area south of Foothill Boulevard. Sewer service in that unit became available in March, 1982, and all 1,810 properties there were supposed to have been connected by December, 1984.
The other half of the system, Unit II, which serves the area north of Foothill Boulevard, began operating in March, 1983, with a final hookup deadline this December. Unit II properties that do not comply face similar water restrictions next year.
"The people in Unit II appear to be much faster in hooking up," said Avery Keener, a spokesman for the district, which serves the unincorporated areas of La Crescenta and Montrose as well as parts of the city of La Canada Flintridge. She said that, as of last week, 2,980 of the 3,475 properties in the northern unit had built connections or received permits for the work.
The water-flow restrictors are a proven incentive, Keener said. "Apparently, people who have experienced it don't wait much longer to hook up," she said.
Asked why people would wait so long to hook up, Argenio said: "There are probably as many reasons as there are people unconnected."
He said that some of the properties involved apparently are owned by absentee landlords. A review by The Times of the warning letters showed that four people cited own at least two noncomplying properties each and that two of them own five properties each. Those landlords could not be reached for comment.
Average Cost of $2,000
The water district provides sewer lines to the edge of a property. The cost of the individual hookup depends on the size of the building and the terrain, depth and length of the hole needed for the pipe. The cost can range from $400 to $4,000, with the average of about $2,000 for a one-family house, Argenio said.
That cost would be in addition to assessments against each property--averaging about $2,000, payable over 10 years--for construction of the entire system.
The sewer system is expected to cost $35 million, with about two-thirds of that financed with state and federal grants. As a condition for accepting the grants, the water district had to impose the compliance measures.
A recent issue of Pipeline, the Crescenta Valley County Water District's consumer newsletter, said: "Although state officials can't help but be impressed with the cooperation displayed by property owners in this district, they will continue to press for 100% connection, and could compel the CVCWD to take forceful action, as provided by local ordinance, state law and EPA regulations to assure compliance."
The newsletter also said that district crews will be conducting dye tests of sewage flow to verify compliance.
Ted Lewis, an owner of Montrose Lighting at 4105 Ocean View Blvd. in Montrose, one of the properties cited for noncompliance, said he delayed because he was waiting to find out about possible construction on an adjacent lot. He said he has contracted for a $1,300 job to connect the store to the sewer system and expects to be able to avoid the water cutback.
"Whenever you are in a community, you have to abide by the law of the land. To resist this is folly," he said.