AVENAL, CALIFORNIA – Reef-Sunset Unified School District Superintendent David East is worried about water. Not because of the drought – record rains this past winter ended five years of dry times. Rather, East, whose district encompasses the small towns of Avenal and Kettleman City on the San Joaquin Valley’s west side, is worried about the safety of the water that the 2,700 students in his school district are being given to drink.
IF YOU DRIVE Highway 99 through California’s Central Valley, you’ll pass through the heart of farm country, where the state’s bounty blooms with hundreds of crops – everything from peaches to pistachios, from tangerines to tomatoes. You’ll also pass through dozens of communities, large and small, whose water systems are tainted by a newly regulated contaminant, 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP), which for decades was used in agricultural fumigants injected into farmland across the Valley.
MADERA, CALIFORNIA – Evelyn Rios wept in 2014 when the well went dry at her home of 46 years – the home where she and husband Joe raised five children on farm-worker wages. They cannot afford another well, so they do without. Her angst only grew as California’s five-year drought dragged on.
On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 the State Water Resources Control Board met to discuss the proposed resolution to delete the text of regulations establishing and implementing a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) on hexavalent chromium, a previously-regulated carcinogen. Following the Superior Court of Sacramento County’s May 31, 2017 decision to invalidate the prior MCL due to a “failure to properly consider economic feasibility,” the State Water Board was ordered to reconsider and adopt a new MCL after economic analysis. Though the ruling did not take a stance on whether or not the previously instated MCL was economically unfeasible, if it adequately protected public health, or what the MCL’s proper value should be, the State Water Board was left to return to the drawing board.
Water justice advocates and environmental, health, rural and equity organizations thank the California Legislature for including emergency drinking water funds in the 2017-18 state budget to continue to chip away at California’s drinking water crisis. The $17 million allocated will address many immediate needs, but advocates urge the legislature to enact a long-term, sustainable funding source to meet the ongoing needs of the state’s water systems.
This week, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) approved the 2017-2018 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Intended Use Plan (DWSRF IUP), which creates a new designation of Expanded Small Community Water Systems for those that serve 10,000 – 20,000 residents or have between 3,300 and 6,600 service connections.
In the third installment of the series Contaminated, KVPR focuses on the opportunities that would be presented and disasters avoided by passage of Senate Bill 623. The bill would establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, creating a pool of money to help cover long term water system costs for Californians who lack access to clean water.
Water justice advocates and environmental, health, rural, and equity organizations were dismayed that the Governor’s revised budget does not go far enough to address the state’s drinking water crisis. Almost five years after the Governor signed into law the Human Right to Water, 300 communities and one million Californians – far more than the population of Flint, Michigan – still lack this basic human right.
Dozens of community leaders from the San Joaquin Valley traveled up to Sacramento last week to speak out in support of Senate Bill 623, which would create a fund to ensure all Californians have safe and affordable drinking water.