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Placer County Water Agency urges state action on wire, metal thefts

By: Journal Staff Report
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AUBURN CA - The Placer County Water Agency is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to approve two legislative bills that aim to reduce the theft of copper and other metals and allow owners to recover costs from recyclers and junk dealers who deal in stolen materials. In a report at Thursday’s meeting of the water agency board, General Manager David Breninger said metal theft has cost the water agency $105,550 over the past five years, plus staff time to remedy the losses. “The recent rise in scrap metal prices has made the theft and sale of these materials valuable,” he said. “It’s a growing concern for us.” The discussion included a staff presentation by Director of Field Services Mike Nichol and Director of Customer Services Matt Young, who provided an overview of metal theft, and the theft of water, another issue the agency has been dealing with. Nichol said copper, brass, aluminum plate, various wiring and other materials have been stolen from agency water systems, affecting water operations and bringing unexpected repair costs. Young said the agency has experienced an increased number of cases of unauthorized water use, including illegal pumping and diversion of water from canals and the illegal tapping of fire hydrants on the piped water system. He detailed an extreme case in which a resident made multiple efforts to bypass a water meter that eventually led PCWA to seek law enforcement assistance. He said the illegal actions cost the agency several thousand dollars. “All for a $45 water bill,” he said. Young said that in addition to the agency’s $250 water meter tampering charge, the agency would seek to recover damages from the responsible party. The State Senate bills, SB 1387 and SB 1045, are now before the governor, awaiting his signature.