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Cancer-Causing Chemical In Valley Water Is One Step Closer To Final Regulation

John Chacon
CA Department of Water Resources

1,2,3-TCP is a known carcinogen that was used over 20 years ago as an industrial solvent and pesticide additive. The pollutant affects around 8 million people across the state and is now in the process of being regulated by the State Water Resources Control Board.


A group of Valley residents spoke out at a state water hearingWednesday in Sacramento about regulating the chemical. Lucy Hernandez is a mother of five from the community of West Goshen in Tulare County.


"This is a highly potent carcinogen. The only chemical in drinking with a lower public health goal is dioxin, which is Agent Orange." - Jenny Rempel

Two years ago water lines from Visalia were extended to her community because they had a problem with another contaminant called nitrates.


“We got connected to the City of Visalia thinking that we were going to be having safe drinking water in our tap," says Hernandez. "Now we find out that Visalia has 1,2,3-TCP contamination in the water. We still not able to drink or cook with the water.”


Stories like hers and pressure from groups like the Community Water Center prompted the state’s plan to regulate the chemical. Jenny Rempel with the group says the state’s proposed regulation is 5 parts per trillion of the chemical in water sources. She says that’s like a drop diluted in a swimming pool.


"This is a highly potent carcinogen," says Rempel. "The only chemical in drinking with a lower public health goal is dioxin, which is Agent Orange.”


The public comment period for the proposal ends Friday and if it’s approved it should go into effect sometime this summer. Communities that detect levels higher than allowed by the state will then have the grounds to sue the companies that used the chemical. Funds collected from those lawsuits will be used to clean up water.


Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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