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Cal Water quells fears of 1,2,3 TCP in drinking water

By Cassie Carlisle

July 8, 2016

Original story:

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Cal Water Service is quelling concerns of a carcinogen in Bakersfield's drinking water.

After 23ABC reported high levels of 1,2,3 trichloropropane in the system in June, the water company received dozens of calls and emails from residents.

"I took a number of calls, and I explained to our customers exactly what I am explaining to you," District Manager Rudy Valles said.

Valles said the main concern was the annual water report that showed a level 200 times the recommended level of the carcinogen 1,2,3 TCP in some areas of Bakersfield.

Valles explained that number was attained as a combination of the tested wells.

"Our system has 950 plus miles of water main and our wells are in various locations, so when we're pumping into the system, it's diluted," Valles said.

Valles added that if a well itself contained a level 100 times the recommendation, it would be shut down immediately.

"We haven't had to do that yet," Valles said.


The State Water Board is holding a meeting July 20th at City Hall to talk with the public about their concerns with TCP, and work on creating a maximum contaminant level.

Creating that level would then prompt water companies to comply and put filters in place to take out the chemical.

"We're ready, we just need that number," Valles said the level may not be set until 2017.

Once it is set, Valles said they already have designs ready with a granular activated carbon filter that will be put in place.

The company is waiting until that level is set, so they put the appropriate sized filter on their water lines.

Valles said he couldn't say how long levels of TCP have been in the water. Lawsuits between Shell Oil and various water companies throughout California say it started in the 1940's.

Shell Oil and Dow released a pesticide to kill nematodes, a microscopic worm that harms crops, and contains TCP. The chemical then contaminated aquifers.

If you would like to test your water, there are a couple labs in Bakersfield that provide the service. BC Lab s can test TCP levels in 10 days for $225.


Excessive levels of carcinogen 1,2,3-TCP found in Kern County water

By Cassie Carlisle

June 22, 2016


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A known carcinogen was detected in levels higher than 200 times the state recommendation in Kern County water, according to the Cal Water Annual Water Quality Report.

The EPA says the chemical, called 1,2,3 TCP (or trichloropropane), is a degreasing agent, and colorless to straw colored liquid.

Back in the early 1900's Shell Oil and Dow took their chemical waste and turned it into a fungicide. The TCP, that was created in the process, was not removed and spread within the fungicide over fields all across California, according to attorney Todd Robins.

Robbins represented several cities battling for money to filter the harmful chemical out of their water.

The companies stopped using TCP in their fumigates in the late 1900's, and in 1999 the State Water Resources and Control Board issued a notification level of 0.0005 micrograms per liter in drinking wate r. The board's public health goal is 0.7 parts per trillion, as recommended by health officials.

This is only a recommendation. Right now no agency or water purveyor is required to meet any standard when it comes to TCP.

"When you look at a map, you can see that it's disproportionately found in the Central Valley. Specifically in Kern County... so there's more places with 1,2,3 TCP in Kern County and also the detection with the highest amount," Gerardo Tinoco, South Kern Community Programs Coordinator at Community Water Center.

Tinoco says this chemical is not only harmful to ingest by drinking but you can soak it in while showering. He compared it to arsenic, saying a one time exposure will not make you sick, but research links years of exposure with multiple kinds of cancer.

To protect yourself and your family, Tinoco suggests using bottled water until a maximum level has been set by the Water Board.

The Board is making a trip to Kern County in late July to talk with residents about the need for a cap to be put on this chemical.

"[Residents] have started a petition and letter signing campaigns, actually I have a few on my desk," Tinoco said the best thing people can do it to get educated on the issue and let the board know their concern.

23ABC reached out to Shell Oil and has not received any information on the current status of the lawsuits between them and Bakersfield, Delano, Shafter and Wasco.

Lamont settled for a large sum, and now the company has to clean the water there.

23ABC reached out to Cal Water to find out how they are working with residents and have not received a call back.

Tinoco said Cal Water has been in front of the TCP issue, already placing filters on some of their main water lines and testing for the carcinogen, while the state does not require them to do so.

Original story:


Click here to join our Action Team to receive updates and occasional action alerts about opportunities to engage in CWC's campaign to ensure the State Water Board adopts a health-protective MCL for 123TCP and ensure the polluters pay for the clean-up of this contaminant! 

Hundreds of California Schools Impacted by Unsafe Drinking Water

May 5, 2016

Jenny Rempel, 916-706-3346 

Hundreds of California Schools Impacted by Unsafe Drinking Water

Over 1 in 10 public schools may have been served by water systems with drinking water violations

Sacramento, CA – Students at as many as 1,600 California public schools may have been impacted by water that did not meet primary drinking water standards between 2003-2014, according to a report released today by the Community Water Center and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. The report also found that many of the water supplies serving these schools have repeatedly violated drinking water standards over multiple years, some for a decade or more.

“The alarming results of this report show that hundreds of schools throughout California may have been impacted by unsafe drinking water,” said Susana De Anda, Co-Executive Director of the Community Water Center. “No parent or child should have to worry about whether the water at school is safe to drink.”

The report found that as many as 24 percent (1,688 schools) were impacted by unsafe drinking water between 2003 and 2014. These schools were likely served by water systems that violated at least one primary safe drinking water standard.

Neither the state of California nor local jurisdictions maintain records of school water system providers, so the report matched 6,974 California schools with the public water systems providing their water supplies, and then used publicly available data to determine which schools were issued violations of primary safe drinking water standards between 2003-2014.

This first-of-its-kind report provides Californians with insights into a statewide problem that has largely gone unmonitored and put students at risk for too long.

“The problem could be even worse if the pipes and drinking fountains in schools leached lead or copper into the water supplies,” said Jenny Rempel, the lead contributor to the report and Communications Coordinator at the Community Water Center. “These contaminants were not included in the study because there are no statewide monitoring or tracking systems for these contaminants in the schools’ drinking water.”

Key findings of the report:

  • As many as 1,048,222 students attended schools impacted by water systems that did not meet primary safe drinking water standards during the report’s timeframe of 2003-2014.
  • Bacterial and arsenic violations were the most common types of violations impacting schools, followed by the pesticide DBCP, disinfectant byproducts, and nitrates.
  • Multiple-year violations were found in up to 9 percent of schools, with some schools impacted for a decade or more.
  • While the problem exists statewide, the Central Valley had both the greatest number and highest percentage of schools in the region impacted by unsafe drinking water.
  • One in four schools in the Central Valley and one in three schools in the Tulare Lake region were impacted by unsafe drinking water.
  • Schools impacted by unsafe drinking water had higher percentages of Hispanic and Latino students and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
  • State agencies do not currently have access to sufficient information to assess the magnitude of the problem and ensure that children have safe drinking water at school.

“Community Water Center’s report highlights the unfortunate reality that safe drinking water remains elusive at too many schools,” said California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “We as policymakers have a duty to provide an environment for all students to learn and thrive.”

The report makes five recommendations to the state of California:

  • Address immediate needs: Provide funding for safe water access points at schools where the water provider is unable to reliably provide safe drinking water or resolve problems in a swift manner.
  • Monitor and track the problem:
    • Ensure adequate tracking, transparency and public reporting from state agencies about water quality at schools.
    • Develop a statewide monitoring and reporting system specifically for lead and copper in schools.
    • Require schools to report whether they provide functioning and appealing safe water access points (e.g., fountains or filling stations) to the public and the state.
  • Promote sustainable, community-wide solutions: The best solution for schools is ensuring safe, robust and resilient community-wide water systems.

In partnership with many non-profit advocacy groups, the Community Water Center is promoting a $56 million, one-time package of budget and policy proposals designed to address the lack of safe drinking water access in schools and secure the human right to water for all Californians.



Full Report

Executive Summary

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Unknown, Unregulated, Undrinkable

By Madeline Thomas

May 5, 2016

Original Story:


Louie Campos stopped drinking the water from his faucets in Visalia, California, so long ago that it takes him a minute to recall just how many years it has been since he held a glass to the tap and took a swill. By his closest approximation, the plainspoken 43-year-old has ripped through a 24-pack of bottled water a week for the last eight years. Bottled water, he says, is a hidden tax Visalia’s residents must pay to live there.

Campos fears his water is contaminated with 1,2,3-trichloropropane, or 1,2,3-TCP. Typically, the chemical is found in industrial solvents and cleaning agents, but it was once used in two popular soil fumigants that were applied here and throughout the Central Valley. Both the state of California and the International Agency for Research on Cancer recognize 1,2,3-TCP as a probable human carcinogen. Studies on rodents link 1,2,3-TCP exposure to thyroid, liver, spleen, and kidney damage; stomach irritation; blood disorders; and cancer and tumors in numerous organs. As of yet, however, there are no mandatory state or federal regulations in place to ensure water systems like Visalia’s remain 1,2,3-TCP-free.

The chemical’s origins trace back to the early 1940s, when Shell first manufactured D-D, a pesticide that contained the ingredient and was designed to kill nematodes, microscopic roundworms known to plague root crops. The Dow Chemical Company released a similar nematicide, called Telone II, in 1956. Twenty years later, as many as 110 million pounds of 1,2,3-TCP were manufactured in the United States annually. Shell eventually ceased manufacture of D-D in the 1980s amid mounting environmental and health concerns. But because 1,2,3-TCP is denser than water, it is heavy enough to sink through soil and into groundwater aquifers. By 2013, the chemical had been reported in at least 372 sources of drinking water throughout California, covering 92 different water systems across 17 counties.

Campos has lived with his parents and high school-aged nephew on the outskirts of Visalia for the better part of a decade. He only found out about 1,2,3-TCP within the last year, but his abstention from the city’s tap water began long before, as he grew jaded by stories of contaminated water in nearby towns. Arsenic in Lamont. Excess levels — as much as three times the federal health limit — of nitrates less than 20 miles away in Monson. While skeptical of his own city’s water, Campos had hoped that, of all places, the county seat of Tulare County wouldn’t face similar problems. He still uses tap water for cooking, showering, and brushing his teeth.

“This is a city, in 2016, in California,” Campos says. “You talk to somebody from anywhere in the middle of the nation, you say, ‘What do you picture when you think of California?’ I bet you that’s not what comes to mind.”

Visalia, the self-described “crown jewel of the San Joaquin Valley,” is a city of some 129,500 residents. By Central Valley standards, it feels metropolitan, a window into a larger world outside of lonesome farm towns and sprawling cow country. Unlike much of the Valley, Main Street isn’t desolate, but flanked by craft breweries and upscale eateries. The snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada are visible from the street’s end. Take a turn out of the city’s center, though, and subtler signs of economic distress come into focus: sagging, moss-covered roofs, front lawns littered with rusting furniture, houses with moldering siding. Roughly 20 percent of Visalia lives under the poverty line.

A few blocks from Main Street, about 10 locals gather at the Community Water Center, a grassroots organization — of which Campos is an avid organizer — dedicated to advocating for safe drinking water across the Central Valley. One attendee, from nearby West Goshen, is particularly fearful of 1,2,3-TCP; her town connected to Visalia’s water system in 2014 following contamination issues of its own after two well malfunctions. “We pay taxes for something,” she says, addressing the room in Spanish. “The water gets more expensive every year, and for what?”

Advocacy groups like the Community Water Center are lobbying the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt a mandatory Maximum Contaminant Level for 1,2,3-TCP. Although the control board considers 1,2,3-TCP “a good candidate for future regulation,” the agency still hasn’t designated an MCL limit. Instead, it relies on a health-based advisory level, a more informal measure, according to which any amount of 1,2,3-TCP greater than 0.005 parts per billion in a drinking water source is reported to the board. Without an MCL in place, the state isn’t obligated to enforce remediation efforts. Water samples cited in the state’s Safe Drinking Water Information System from November 2013 show 1,2,3- TCP levels as high as 0.009 ppb in Visalia.

At least three dozen lawsuits throughout California have been filed in recent years against Dow and Shell, alleging, primarily, that the chemical companies sold products containing 1,2,3-TCP despite its risks to public health and the environment, and that both companies knew or should have known of measures to reduce the amount of 1,2,3-TCP in their soil fumigants without affecting the quality of their final product.

“The testimony in the lawsuits today shows that the costs of cleaning up 1,2,3- TCP in drinking water, just in California alone, will so far surpass the modest costs that Dow and Shell could have spent in, you know, the 1950s, to eliminate this chemical from their products in the first place,” says Todd Robins, an attorney who has represented many of the cities involved in the lawsuits.

“This is a city, in 2016, in California. You talk to somebody from anywhere in the middle of the nation, you say, ‘What do you picture when you think of California?’ I bet you that’s not what comes to mind.”

Both Dow and Shell declined to comment on active litigation, but in legal filings, both companies have denied the arguments presented in the plaintiffs’ claims. In an email from a spokesperson, Shell wrote that, while it respects the State Water Resources Control Board’s authority to regulate 1,2,3-TCP, it could not comment on regulation until actual changes were proposed for review. In another email, Dow stressed that other companies also produced products containing 1,2,3- TCP. “[Agricultural] products and product formulations [containing TCP] have not been on the market for several decades and include products that Dow did not manufacture or sell,” it wrote. “TCP is also associated with certain industrial processes in which Dow had no involvement.”

In 2009, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment developed a public-health goal of limiting 1,2,3-TCP in drinking water sources to 0.0007 ppb — much more stringent than the current advisory level. Unlike an MCL, which establishes a mandatory regulation, public-health goals are more like optimistic targets and are not necessarily economically or technically feasible. Groups like the Community Water Center hope to establish a statewide MCL as close as possible to OEHHA’s recommended goal. The process, however, is a rigorous one and involves a thorough investigation into its technical, environmental, and economic feasibilities. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, a proposed 1,2,3-TCP MCL could be presented to the public for comments within the year.

When Campos speaks to school boards, local politicians, and community groups about the hazards of 1,2,3-TCP, he says most attendees are surprised to learn that their water could be contaminated. Many don’t want to listen. Visalia, by and large, is a blue-collar city. A home without clean water is just another bleak reminder of the realities of the working poor, he says. Living one paycheck away from the streets, as many Visalians are, is already burdensome enough; buying bottled water is perceived as an impractical luxury. For many Californians, Campos says, the fight for clean drinking water is out of their hands.

“If you’re in a car wreck, there’s a point where you can recognize, you can see it all happening, and you understand that you can do nothing to stop it,” Campos says. “You kind of get mad, because you can’t do anything about it.”


Get involved! Sign CWC's petition to ensure the State Water Board adopts a health-protective MCL for 123TCP this 2016 and ensure the polluters pay for the clean-up of this contaminant!



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