News Feature | February 2, 2017

Unsafe Water Has Plagued California Town For Years

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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Is the woefully contaminated water system in Seville, CA, on the brink of major change?

“The state has come up with $5 million to rebuild the piping system this year, and there are plans to get healthier drinking water. This might be the year that people can stop buying bottled water in Seville,” The Fresno Bee recently reported.

Meanwhile, communities are ironing out “legal details on the governing agency to run the water treatment plant, hoping to complete the work and get all the communities on board by late February or March. If all goes well, the plant could be operating by 2020, which is still three years away,” the report said.

Still, years of disappointment mean locals have reason to temper their optimism.

“A decade after the fight began to clean up the water system, it still is risky to drink tap water in this farmworker community. About 500 residents still are waiting to get what most Californians take for granted — a safe drink of water from the tap,” the report said.

“Activists and advocates privately fear problems with state funding bureaucracies and local political problems will stall California’s effort to make communities less risky places to live. Delays have not been unusual in the drinking water cleanups,” the report continued.

The origin of the contamination in this agricultural region of California is nitrate pollution, according to the report.

“The eight-county San Joaquin Valley has some of the most contaminated aquifers in the nation: 92 drinking water systems in the San Joaquin Valley had a well with nitrate levels above the legal limit from 2005 to 2008, potentially affecting the water quality of approximately 1.3 million residents. In addition to public water systems, the State Water Board sampled 181 domestic wells in Tulare County in 2006 and found that 40 percent of those tested had nitrate levels above the legal limit,” according to an analysis by the Pacific Institute, a water think tank.

One hopeful sign is that “the state is working on a nitrate cleanup approach, which may include fees on farmers to help pay not only for the cleanup but possibly to help small towns,” The Fresno Bee reported.

Yet nitrates are not the only problem. The region also has the highest number of public water systems in the state “found in violation of U.S. EPA limits for arsenic, fecal coliform bacteria, and other contaminants. All of this, despite the fact that California has legally declared that every citizen has a right to safe drinking water,” CityLab reported.

To read more about polluted water sources visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Straight Lines," Dave Parker © 2006, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/