Monday, May 14, 2012

Newell, CA's legacy water system

@CaliforniaWatch report on rural CA water problems (Update: more here) reminds me of Newell, CA, which was the site of the Tule Lake Segregation Center camp that incarcerated some 18,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

Last I heard (as of 2006), the very low-income unincorporated town that occupies the site was more or less still using the camp's original water and sewer network. People living in Newell had to be extremely careful about flushing paper, any paper, down those narrow old pipes. They clogged a lot.

The thing is, free people live in Newell now, in houses that are often made from converted wartime barracks. The houses all have plumbing. The barracks, during the incarceration, didn't. Several barracks, usually housing five families each, with no plumbing inside, would share one bathhouse. So although Newell houses far fewer people than the crowded camp did, current water usage per house lot is more than the system was designed to handle.

You don't have to believe in ectoplasm to think that places are sometimes haunted, literally and substantively, by the physical remnants of wrongs in their history.

I took the photo here, of an alley in Newell, also in 2006. I need to get back there again and bring the story up to date.

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