Water thefts reported in North San Juan
Firefighters with the North San Juan Fire Protection District say someone stole most of the water in their storage tanks, leaving their community vulnerable in the event of a fire.
“It’s not just an inconvenience, it’s a potential disaster,” said Ed Beckenbach, chairman of the district’s board of directors.
“We’re not particularly interested in getting anyone arrested, we just want it to stop,” Beckenbach said. “But the sheriff has been notified, and it is potentially a serious crime.”
No suspect has been identified at this time, but several people at a press conference Thursday speculated that the recent spate of water thefts may have something to do with marijuana-growing operations.
Firefighters believe that someone drove up to the tanks in a water truck and used it to haul the water off-site. They left the scene with an estimated 8,000 gallons of water — or three-quarters of the volunteer fire department’s total supply.
The incident is believed to have occurred sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning.
The missing water was discovered Monday when somebody thumped one of the tanks with his hand and it made a hollow sound.
The district’s water storage tanks were still refilling Thursday afternoon, and Battalion Chief Boyd Johnson indicated it would be a couple days before they were full again.
Their supply is drawn from a slow well, and the tanks take longer to fill than they do to drain.
“This is a critical issue for us,” said Johnson. “We want to put a stop to it, and do everything possible to prepare for the possibility that this may continue in the future.”
Locals say there have been other water thefts in the area recently. James Berardi, superintendent of the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, said roughly 6,000 gallons of water had been stolen from Grizzly Hill School.
“That was over a whole weekend, so I believe it was probably multiple trucks or one truck that came multiple times,” Berardi said.
Diana Pasquini, from the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center, showed a damaged garden hose, believed to have been cut in the process of another water theft.
Pasquini asked concerned citizens to note the make, model, location and license plate number of any vehicle suspected to be involved in water theft.
For Sol Henson, with the San Juan Ridge Taxpayer’s association, this is a land-use issue.
“We’re addressing the water resources issues that this drought is impacting right now, so our concerns are about people using water resources meant for others,” he said.
“In the end, we’re in a situation where we have really stressed water resources that are going to impact our ability to fight wildland fires. It’s a major issue.”
To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4230.
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