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Central Basin Water Association: Cerritos, Pay Your Bill

Cerritos along with the cities of Pico Rivera, Downey, Bellflower, Signal Hill refuse to pay assessments.

Water scofflaws are being targeted by a water agency in Southeast Los Angeles County, but this time, the alleged offenders are cities, according to a report in the Whittier Daily News.

The cities of Cerritos, Bellflower, Downey, Pico Rivera and Signal Hill are being billed as deadbeats by the Water Replenishment District of Southern California, which sells the municipalities water from the underground aquifer.

The Whittier Daily News reported Sunday that the cities and the agency are in a long-running battle challenging the district's rate-setting procedures. Lawsuits have been filed and press releases issued, as the district tries to collect more than $13.6 million supposedly owed to the replenishment district.

"Your unwillingness to take responsibility to pay to replace the water threatens the long-term sustainability of a resource on which millions of consumers and thousands of employers and jobs depend," said one letter from the Central Basin Water Association.

Downey Mayor Mario Guerra called the letter "a joke."

"He forgot to say that several judges have ruled what (the district) did was illegal and they owe us a refund," he told the Whittier newspaper.

Some of the cities have placed the disputed money in escrow accounts, the Daily News reported.

The district is made up of 44 cities and water utilities in southeast L.A. County that pay to pump surplus water into the ground for storage, and charge each other to recover the water. It has been largely upheld in court decisions, but other court cases and appeals continue.

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