Earth Log

June 16, 2014

Leadership of controversial California water program shifts

Earth Log

Mark Grossi's dispatches from the Valley battle with air quality and water use

San Joaquin Valley towns appear to be finished with the California Department of Public Health, which many have blamed for funding delays that have left residents with bad drinking water for years.

Gov. Jerry Brown's new budget, which cleared the Legislature, moves the state's Drinking Water Program from Public Health to the State Water Resources Control Board. The move will be made July 1, state leaders said.

The program holds the purse strings for funding to correct drinking water problems in small communities.

The Bee's 2011 investigation of Valley drinking water problems revealed towns such as Seville in Tulare County and Lanare in Fresno County faced a maze of technicalities to get funding.

Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, last year introduced Assembly Bill 145 that would have taken the program away from the California Department of Public Health.

The bill would have moved the program to the state board, but it died quietly in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Meanwhile, both Seville and Lanare have been caught in the funding process, adding years to their frustrating wait to clean up their dirty drinking water.

Many towns have problems with nitrates, a chemical contamination from fertilizer, septic systems, dairy waste and decaying plants. Others have problems with natural contaminants such as arsenic.

Three years ago, the United Nations came to Seville, a town of 480, as part of a worldwide tour of communities where drinking water is chronically unsafe. The U.N. investigator's tour included communities in Costa Rica, Slovenia, Uruguay and Namibia. 

The U.N. investigator recommended that California move with more urgency to address the problems, and the state has funded some projects. 

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About Mark Grossi


Mark Grossi has the pulse of the San Joaquin Valley ecosystem, writing since 1993 about subjects such as the region's notorious air quality, the restoration of the San Joaquin River and unhealthy drinking water in rural towns. Twitter: @markgrossi Email Mark at or call him at 559-441-6316.

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