Tenants of Fenton Business Center File Claims Against Otay Water District and City of Chula Vista
After years of drinking and washing their hands in the recycled water, employees of businesses located in the center and their family members are now experiencing health problems. Claims have been filed on behalf of the 60 plaintiffs seeking damages from both Otay Water District and the City of Chula Vista for their improper installation and inspection of the business center’s water system.
Attorneys from multiple law firms are representing various tenants of the business center. All attorneys have made a commitment to coordinate efforts during the ongoing investigation. Attorney Doug Gilliland is representing Unique Wood Designs, PC Joes, Party World, Eastlake Party Rentals and Eastlake Insurance.
"Now is just a scary time as some medical tests are returning positive for e-coli and other bacteria related to the consumption of human waste, not to mention high levels of toxins such as selenium and magnesium," said Doug Gilliland.
Jim Meier with the Glendale, California law firm of Calendo, Puckett, Sheedy & DiCorrado is representing the employees of Eastlake Dream Dinners. Dick A. Semerdjian with the San Diego law firm of Schwartz, Semerdjian, Haile Ballard, & Cauley is representing the employees of San Diego Electric Sign. Anthony Dain with the San Diego law firm of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP is representing the employees of Candy Bouquet. Attorney Eric Johnson is representing the employees of Jumpin' Jumps Inflatables.
“Since finding out that the water that was provided to our building and business was recycled water, our lives have been turned upside down. Our once thriving business is now virtually nonexistent and our health and financial well-being are in jeopardy,” said Amy Wise, co-owner of Candy Bouquet, one of two businesses that was forced to close its doors for a week. Although they were forced to temporarily close, customers of Candy Bouquet were never at risk because the business uses only prepackaged candy.
“The physical, emotional and economic harm to our clients has been devastating. These are hardworking, small-business owners, who have put everything into making their businesses successful. Now, they and their families face both debilitating health crises and financial ruin,” said Anthony Dain.
“We don't know what our health will be in the future due to what we have been exposed to from the water and we don't know if our business is going to make it due to the stigma now attached to our store and the building. There are no words to describe what we have gone through the last couple of months and the worry we have regarding our family’s health and future,” said Angela Mason, who owns the Candy Bouquet with Amy Wise.
Treated sewage water began flowing through pipes throughout Fenton Business Center when it opened in July 2005 after they were hooked up to a recycled water line normally used for irrigation. The water was made up of four parts drinking water to one part recycled water. This changed in May 2007 when the Otay Water District entered into a deal with the city of San Diego to purchase 6 million gallons of recycled water a day. Tenants noticed a change in the color, smell and taste of their water because they were now receiving 100% recycled water. Tenants complained for months to the Otay Water District, but the District did not run tests on the water that the tenants were receiving from their taps, telling the tenants that the water was fine. After numerous calls to the landlords, the business park owners sent a sample of the water to a private lab, whose test results showed the presence of total coliform bacteria. Otay Water District was informed and finally sent a work crew to investigate, where they discovered that the water pipes were misconnected. At that time, the District advised tenants not to drink the water and the county Department of Environmental Health closed the doors of the two food-related businesses in the park for seven days until the problem was fixed.
In September, a report revealed that Otay inspectors did not follow regulations during construction and failed to miss the signs that the pipes were not connected properly. The City of Chula Vista is being cited for approving plans for Fenton Business Center that showed the on-site potable water plumbing being connected to an irrigation lateral and for failure to inspect.