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Governor Newsom Visits Valley To Hear Challenges Of Unclean Drinking Water

Self-Help Enterprises
Governor Gavin Newsom greets residents of the Stanislaus County unincorporated community of Monterey Park Tract to discuss drinking water on January 11, 2018.

Of all the ground Governor Gavin Newsom covered in his first week in office, he already appears to be showing a commitment to improving the state’s drinking water.

On Friday, Governor Newsom took a road trip to Monterey Park Tract, an unincorporated community in Stanislaus County. There, he and his entourage heard concerns from residents about their drinking water, which they pipe in from the nearby city of Ceres and is known to contain a carcinogen known as 1,2,3-TCP.

Jessi Snyder of the non-profit Self-Help Enterprises says she was impressed with how intently Newsom listened. "I love that he had his entire cabinet there," she says. "It was so amazing to see all of them filling up the room."

This followed a day after the new governor had introduced a preliminary state budget, in which he proposed creating a fund to help communities access safe and affordable drinking water. "As of Friday, I think he’d been four days in office," Snyder says. "Those are two really strong signs of leadership and priorities."

As of now, Newsom proposes seeding the fund with $4.9 million from the state’s General Fund, then sustaining it by establishing fees on dairy producers and water users. Former Governor Jerry Brown had supported a similar fund in 2018, but had abandoned it after failing to find enough backing from state legislators.

An earlier version of this story misnamed the community Newsom visited as Monterey Tract, and incorrectly stated that the water in Ceres contains high levels of arsenic.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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