California’s Plan to Tackle a Carcinogen Widespread in Water

News Deeply –

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.

On July 18, the State Water Resources Control Board unanimously voted to adopt a drinking water standard for regulating TCP, a manmade chemical the state designated as a carcinogen a quarter-century ago. As a result, water agencies will soon have to start testing for TCP in their water, and those that can’t take contaminated wells out of service or blend the water with cleaner sources will need to construct costly treatment systems. For smaller and low-income communities, the added expense could be more than ratepayers can bear. Water systems may need to spend anywhere from $22,668 to $473,740 per year to meet the new standard, according to State Water Board estimates.

Water agencies and environmental groups hailed the move by the State Water Board to establish a maximum contaminant level (MCL). “We applaud this important step to protect Californians impacted by 1,2,3-TCP,” said Phoebe Seaton, codirector of the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, which works on economic and environmental justice issues in the San Joaquin Valley. “The challenge that remains, however, is securing the funds and resources necessary to help impacted communities and residents gain access to treatment mechanisms.”

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