Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy
Pages tagged "123tcp"

ACLU: #123TCP – The Toxic Chemical in California's Tap Water


By: Kena Cador

Published on April 10, 2017

Read the full story HERE

We are looking forward to a hearing to be held in Sacramento on April 19, 2017 to testify about the dangers of 1,2,3-TCP, and to urge the State Water Board to adopt a strict MCL for the contaminant. 

1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP) is a known carcinogen that has contaminated a great deal of California's water supply for decades. The biggest impacts of this contaminant can be seen throughout the agriculture-rich Central Valley.


EWG: Cancer Causing Pesticide Garbage Taints Tap Water for Millions in California


By: Bill Walker

Published on April 11, 2017

Read the full story and watch the video HERE

We are eager to be featured on the Environmental Working Group website in regards to the dangers of 1,2,3-TCP! Dow and Shell companies have been contaminating California's water supply with this known carcinogen for decades. It is essential that the State Water Board sets a strict maximum contaminant level on 1,2,3-TCP, and that it provides the necessary funding for impacted communities. 


California is finally going to regulate a chemical it identified as carcinogenic 25 years ago



By: Vice News

Published on March 22, 2017

We are happy to announce that California is on track to regulating 1,2,3-TCP, which is a known carcinogen that has been found in the state's water supply. This is in response to lawsuits filed by more than 40 water districts throughout California against Dow and Shell companies. 

The California State Water Resources Board is set to vote soon on a proposition that would require all of the states water to contain less than five parts per trillion (ppt) of TCP; Del Ray’s water levels have tested ten times higher than that level.

Check out the full video and coverage, HERE!


Health and Justice in Water Board’s Hands with Pesticide Byproduct

Check out CWC Policy & Communications Analyst Asha Kreiling's Fresno Alliance newspaper op-ed on 1,2,3-TCP! 
By: Asha Kreiling 
March 5, 2017


Twenty-five years ago, the drinking water contaminant 1,2,3-TCP was added to the state of California’s list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer. Water contaminated by this dangerous pesticide byproduct still, flows in hundreds of thousands of homes across the state.

After years of pressure, Californians may finally see justice. The draft regulations to limit the allowable amount of 1,2,3-TCP in water are about to be released to the public, kickstarting the public comment period that communities and environmental justice advocates have been waiting for.

Most 1,2,3-TCP (1,2,3-Trichloropropane) water contamination is in the Central Valley. It comes from pesticides manufactured by Shell Oil and Dow Chemical. These pesticides’ use was phased out by the 1980s, but 1,2,3-TCP leached from farm soils into our groundwater, contaminating hundreds of wells all over California. Given its agricultural history, it’s no surprise that Fresno County is one of the most affected counties. 1,2,3-TCP has been found in the drinking water in Fresno, Clovis, Del Rey, Selma, Parlier, Del Rey, Kingsburg, and Reedley.

Some lawsuits against the chemical companies responsible for the contamination have settled, including the City of Clovis’ recent $22 million victory against Shell, which landed it on the front page of the Fresno Bee in December. But, dozens of other Central Valley water systems are still waiting for settlements.

One of those systems waiting for justice is the Del Rey water district. Del Rey is a small rural community in Fresno County. Beside the rows of citrus trees and grapevines and corporate food processing facilities live almost 2,000 people. Most of Del Rey’s residents are Latino, and by state standards, most of them are poor. Three out of the town’s five water wells are currently contaminated with 1,2,3-TCP, although all five have been contaminated at some point in time.

The absence of a state legal limit for 1,2,3-TCP in drinking water has caused the courts handling these cases to move very slowly. So, residents of places like Del Rey have been forced to wait. Many households use bottled water for cooking and drinking or even bathing, but others who can’t afford bottled water or aren’t aware of the contamination continue to drink straight from their taps, with huge health risks. 1,2,3-TCP consumption can cause skin irritations, headaches, drowsiness, liver and kidney damage, and cancer.

In December, I held a Community Water Center workshop in Del Rey to share information about these health risks as well as some good news: after years of delay, California may finally set the legal limit for 1,2,3-TCP in water — and it looks like it may do so at the most health-protective standard of 5 parts per trillion! For most of the workshop, though, the residents who showed up couldn’t get past their anger and fears: “Does this mean I can’t take a shower?” “Why hasn’t anyone done anything about this?” “What do I tell my children?” “Is this why so many people in my neighborhood have had cancer?” “Do they think they can just forget about us poor people?”

Those are tough questions, but they are the ones I hear the most often at community workshops about 1,2,3-TCP. After someone has experienced decades of exposure to a carcinogen, what would you expect? All I can do is listen, and nod, and ask them to continue to speak up and ask those questions of the decision-maker: the State Water Resources Control Board.

I’ve shared similar concerns with the Board many times, but I was in Del Rey asking for help because residents who have been directly impacted are the most powerful advocates for justice. By writing letters, signing petitions, or traveling three hours to Sacramento, Del Rey residents — like those in Fresno and Clovis and other communities impacted by 1,2,3-TCP — are the ones whose health should be prioritized as regulators look to set the limit for 1,2,3-TCP.  Until the State Water Resources Control Board adopts the most health-protective legal limit for 1,2,3-TCP, I will continue to ask for help.

When the public comment period starts, I urge Central Valley residents to tell their stories and submit comments demanding that the State Water Board protect our health. In April, we can show up in Sacramento and ask the tough questions I heard in Dey Rey.

To the people of Del Rey, Fresno, Clovis, and all the 1,2,3-TCP impacted communities in the state, meet me in Sacramento. Let us demand that 1,2,3-TCP be regulated at 5 parts per trillion, the most health-protective level. Let us demand that polluters pay. Let us demand water justice.

To get an update when the State Water Board’s 1,2,3-TCP workshop is scheduled, you can sign up for the Community Water Center’s 1,2,3-TCP Action Team:

Comment Period:  March 4 – April 21
Public Hearing:  April 19

California Set to Regulate Carcinogen in Water for Decades

By: Tara Lohan
March 4, 2017


A water well in Del Rey, California, a small community in Fresno County. Del Rey is one of dozens of communities in the San Joaquin Valley that has found 1,2,3-trichloropropane, a likely human carcinogen, in its water. 

CARLOS ARIAS IS asked by many residents in the small town of Del Rey, California, if the water is safe to drink. He is the district manager of Del Rey’s community services district, which is tasked with providing drinking water and other services to its 2,000 residents.

You might think it would be an easy question to answer. But it’s not. “We’ve been told by the government that prolonged use of this water could cause cancer – that’s all I can tell them,” said Arias.

Del Rey, in Fresno County, is one of dozens of communities in the San Joaquin Valley with wells that contain 1,2,3-trichloropropane.

1,2,3-TCP, as it is commonly known, has been classified as a likely human carcinogen; in 1992 California added it to the list of chemicals known by the state to cause cancer. The first known detections in wells in the San Joaquin Valley came in 2000, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. And between 2001 and 2015 there have been detections at 471 wells ranging from 5 parts per trillion to 10,000 parts per trillion, with the most contaminated wells being found in Kern and Fresno counties.

Despite the prevalence and the risk, the state had not regulated the chemical.

But that will change in the next few months and when it does, it could mean two major companies having to pay out millions in remediation costs for contaminated wells.

Contaminating Groundwater

1,2,3-TCP is a man-made chlorinated hydrocarbon. It is used in industrial processes for cleaning and degreasing. A byproduct of the plastics industry, in the 1940s and 1950s it became part of a soup of chemicals formulated as a soil fumigant – a pesticide injected into the ground to kill tiny worms known as nematodes. Shell manufactured one of the fumigants, known as D-D, and Dow had a competing product called Telone.

They were “two of the most widely used soil fumigants in California” according to a 1983 report from the resources control board’s toxic substances control program.

“The really egregious part of this whole story is that this was a totally man-made problem and was totally avoidable,” said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager at Clean Water Action, the grassroots pressure group. Internal company documents discovered during litigation have shown that Dow and Shell knew early on that 1,2,3-TCP was not an active ingredient in the products and served no purpose in killing nematodes.

“It offered no extra benefit to farmers using [the] product,” said Ventura.

Despite that, the products were labeled for decades as 100 percent active, when in fact the primary active ingredient was known to be 1,3-dichloropropane. The rationale appears to have been purely economic, namely to “retain the definite sales advantage of a 100 percent active ingredient claim,” according to a 1949 letter by Shell regarding the federal registration of D-D.

“There are several reasons why we prefer not to list all the ingredients,” the letter states. “Some of the components that make up D-D … have little or no nematicidal effectiveness and we would not be able to defend our claim of 100 percent active ingredient if the names of any of these compounds appeared in the ingredient statement.”

It was not until 1974 that Dow began to reformulate its product (now sold as Telone-II) and eventually removed 1,2,3-TCP. Shell dropped its product altogether in the 1980s after stricter regulations for pesticides were put in place.

Because of ongoing litigation, Dow declined an interview but in a statement said “TCP was a trace constituent associated with certain historical, highly beneficial agricultural products and product formulations that controlled agricultural pests that otherwise would have caused millions of dollars in annual crop losses. Those products and product formulations have not been on the market for several decades and include products that Dow did not manufacture or sell.”

Communities at Risk


Del Rey is a small community of mostly farmworkers in Fresno County and is one of about 40 San Joaquin Valley communities taking legal action because of 1,2,3-trichloropropane, a likely human carcinogen, found in its groundwater. (Tara Lohan)

However, decades after products containing 1,2,3-TCP ceased to be used in the San Joaquin Valley, the consequences remain. It persists in the environment, leaches from the soil to the water and sinks to the bottom of an aquifer.

Many of the communities that have been affected, such as Del Rey, have few resources to fix the problem. “It’s such a small community, such a disadvantaged community,” said Arias. “I don’t think the people, especially poor people like we have in this community, should pay for something that was done by somebody else. All we want is the responsible parties to take responsibility in this matter and fix it.”

Arias said that there was no way Del Rey, whose residents mostly work in agricultural fields and packing houses, could clean up the drinking water by raising its water rates. “I know it’s costly – in the millions, which we don’t have,” he said.

Regulation on the Way

Del Rey is one of about 40 communities that so far have engaged in litigation to recoup remediation costs. Attorney Todd Robins has represented dozens of small valley communities suing the companies to help pay the cost of removing the contaminant from drinking-water wells. He said that while some of the lawsuits have already been settled out of court, most are moving slowly because California does not currently have a maximum contaminant level (MCL) stating how much of the chemical is safely allowed in public drinking-water systems.

The state has been moving toward establishing an MCL for some years.

In 2009 California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set a public health goal of 0.7 parts per trillion (ppt), a level deemed to be safest for protecting public health. But public health goals are guidelines and not enforceable regulations. The next step is establishing the MCL, which is also in the works.

The SWRCB staff have issued a preliminary recommendation for an MCL of 5 parts per trillion, which is higher than the public health goal, but is the lowest detection level for most laboratories. A 45-day public comment period on the proposed draft MCL has just started and the water board will hold a public hearing on April 19.

After that feedback, the board is expected to adopt the MCL this summer, according to the SWRCB. Water systems would need to begin sampling for 1,2,3-TCP by Jan.1, 2018.

When the state issues the regulation, “that should have some significant reverberations on how the litigation comes out,” said Robins. “It will certainly result in more water systems joining the fray. A state rule would mean even the smallest water providers will have to test and most will not have the resources for remediation.”

The water board estimates that remediation will cost $34 million annually statewide for the affected systems if the MCL is indeed set at 5 parts per trillion. The numbers could climb if more communities are affected or if contamination worsens in wells, said Mark Bartson, supervising sanitary engineer with the control board’s division of drinking water.

In one of the few cases that have gone to trial already, Shell was ordered to pay $22 million to the city of Clovis in December. The city previously settled with Dow for $7.5 million.

A contamination problem, when faced by small, poor communities, “creates a dilemma between clean water and affordable water,” said Robins. “And the whole purpose of the litigation is to say people have a right to both; they shouldn’t have to choose.”


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