FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2016
Asha Kreiling, Policy & Communications Analyst, Community Water Center
Andria Ventura, Toxics Program Manager, Clean Water Action
415-369-9166 (o), 408-537-3460 (c), firstname.lastname@example.org
Sacramento, CA – This morning, California regulators took an important step toward protecting California communities from a highly toxic drinking water contaminant found across the state, say environmental justice advocates.
At its first public workshop on the pesticide byproduct 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP), Division of Drinking Water staff shared a preliminary proposal to set the TCP drinking water standard at the Detection Limit, which is 5 parts per trillion. Five parts per trillion (ppt) is the most health-protective standard possible. Setting the standard at this level would help protect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians who currently drink water contaminated by 123 TCP.
“Residents living in communities impacted by TCP contaminated water continue to worry about the health impacts of this known carcinogen, so we’re glad that the Board has started out on the right track by prioritizing health and safety and setting the standard at 5 ppt,” said Asha Kreiling, Policy and Communications Analyst at the Community Water Center.
TCP is a toxic, man-made chemical contaminating at least 94 public drinking water systems across California, including Fresno, Bakersfield, Tulare, and many other Central Valley communities. The State of California declared TCP a carcinogen over 15 years ago, but TCP remains unregulated and untreated because it lacks a drinking water standard, or Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL).
Most TCP contamination stems from the extensive application of pesticides containing TCP that were manufactured by Shell Oil and Dow Chemical Company prior to the 1990s. Despite the companies’ knowledge of the health risks, they failed to remove the ingredient from their products or notify farmers and communities of the known health risks. Some public water systems have already received payment through cost-recovery litigation against Shell Oil and Dow Chemical Company, but many are waiting until the drinking water standard is established to settle their lawsuits and begin treatment for this toxin.
“This was an avoidable problem caused by two multinational companies who chose to protect their profits instead of human health,” said Andria Ventura, Toxics Program Manager at Clean Water Action. “By proposing the most protective standard possible, the Division of Drinking Water is prioritizing both public health and environmental justice, since communities can hold companies accountable for TCP water treatment costs.”
The State Water Resources Control Board will be holding additional public workshops in Bakersfield and Fresno next week to discuss the development of the drinking water standard. The Board has encouraged community members to attend to learn more about TCP and the MCL development process, and to share their initial questions and feedback.
“We are thrilled with this initial proposal from Board staff, and we will continue watching the process and working alongside impacted communities to ensure that the State Water Board prioritizes public health over corporate profits by adopting the 5 ppt drinking water standard as soon as possible,” Kreiling said.
About The Community Water Center
The Community Water Center (CWC) is a non-profit environmental justice organization based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, whose mission is to act as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy. CWC’s fundamental goal is to ensure that all communities have access to safe, clean, and affordable water. CWC helps build strategic grassroots capacity to address water challenges in small, rural, low-income communities and communities of color. For more information, visit CWC’s website at www.communitywatercenter.organd follow us on Twitter at @CWaterC.
About Clean Water Action
Clean Water Action is a national organization, founded in 1972, that has 50,000 members in California and over one million nationwide. We empower people to take action to protect water resources, build healthy communities, and make democracy work. Visit us at www.cleanwateraction.org and follow us on Twitter at @cleanh2oaction.
The February 16th, 2016, State Water Resources Control Board meeting was a momentous day for the Board, the Division of Drinking Water, water justice advocates, and all the communities that struggle to access safe, affordable drinking water. State Water Board members voted unanimously in support of the Resolution to adopt the Human Right to Water as a core value and to direct its implementation at the State Water Board.
The State of California adopted the Human Right to Water (Water Code 106.3) in 2012 to recognize that "every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes." The Human Right to Water extends to all Californians, including vulnerable and marginalized individuals, groups, and communities in rural, tribal, and urban areas.
Still, much work is left to be done to implement drinking water solutions in the hundreds of communities across California that lack access to safe, affordable water. The State Water Board’s adoption of the resolution four years after the passage of Water Code 106.3 serves to reaffirm the human right to water as a core value and top board priority and provide guidance to Board staff and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards as they implement the law.
CWC's Laurel Firestone and AGUA Coalition Member Sandra Garcia joined several ally organizations including the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Clean Water Action, Vern Goehring on behalf of Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club California and others to speak in support of the Resolution. Sandra Garcia spoke of her struggles achieving the Human Right to Water as a low-income farmworker from the community of Poplar. She spoke of the well that her community has been forced to close due to nitrate contamination and of the fear that contaminated water will once again come from her faucet given Poplar's extreme vulnerability to nitrate contamination. Sandra explained to the Board members the burden of having to pay for clean, bottled water in addition to her tap water to do basic things like cook or drink. Sandra's story of the lack of access to safe, reliable, and affordable water is unfortunately shared by hundreds of thousands of other residents in the Central Valley.
State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus concisely summarized the importance of the Resolution towards the end of the meeting's discussion, saying, "The Human Right to Water statute means something. It wasn't sending a Hallmark card to communities who are out of clean, safe, and affordable water. It was supposed to give them hope. But, it didn't give us a lot of tools to do it. There are tools we simply don't have to make this happen, and so the Resolution, I think, is a modest way of saying, 'keep this front of mind in all we do.' "
Watch the full meeting here! (Human Right to Water Agenda Item begins at approximately 4:25:00)