Innovative efforts to accelerate
restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the
benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water
agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires.
Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of
California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address
persistent challenges facing the Colorado River.
These were among the issues Western Water explored in
2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed
The Trump administration is preparing to further dismantle
environmental regulations by vastly reducing the reach of
federal protections for streams and wetlands — delivering a
major win for farmers, developers, miners and oil and gas
West Marin ranchers and a local conservation group are teaming
up to plan habitat restoration projects along Walker Creek to
restore the once bountiful, but now diminished, runs of coho
salmon and steelhead trout. The California Department of Fish
and Wildlife awarded the Point Reyes Station-based Marin
Resource Conservation District a nearly $350,000 grant this
The factors causing the decline of many fish and fisheries in
the upper San Francisco Estuary have made their management
controversial, usually because of the correlation of declines
with increased water exports from the Delta and upstream of the
Delta… To address this problem better, the California Fish
and Game Commission is developing new policies for managing
Delta fish and fisheries, with a special focus on striped bass.
How pervasive is that plastic exposure, and is it bad for your
health? Scientists don’t yet know, but they have some working
theories. Here’s what we know so far about these tiny,
prevalent plastic particles.
A move by the Trump administration to roll back landmark
environmental policy intended to ensure vigorous scrutiny of
federal infrastructure projects has struck alarm in the hearts
of California conservationists, particularly those striving to
safeguard North Coast waters from offshore energy exploration
Yes, aggregate mining on the San Joaquin has been going on for
more than a century. But with production tapering off and newer
operations opening on the nearby Kings River, it was generally
assumed the poor San Joaquin would finally be given a break…
Unfortunately, a proposal by Cemex threatens to dash those
hopes while ensuring another century of heavy industry on
California’s second-longest river…
Court dockets are ballooning with litigation over PFAS, a
vexing family of chemicals used in many consumer and industrial
products. … Lawyers have compared the legal onslaught to
litigation over asbestos, tobacco, and lead paint. Here’s a
rundown of key cases.
House lawmakers passed a bill Friday for U.S. regulators to
designate chemicals found in cooking spray, cosmetics and other
grease-resistant products as health hazards. Known as
polyfluoroalkyl and perfluorooctanoic substances (PFAS and
PFOS), the chemicals have been found in groundwater sites
across the nation.
The increasing spills that have polluted the Tijuana River Valley
and ocean off Imperial Beach have resulted in frustration and
anger in recent years, but also triggered broad political
collaboration at the local, state and federal level that has put
the region on the brink of real action.
Newport Beach has the preliminary engineering, environmental
review and startup funding for its long-planned
trash-collection vessel for Upper Newport Bay. Now it’s looking
forward to the final design, construction and giving the water
wheel a personality.
The Trump administration’s sweeping plan to ease environmental
review of highways, power plants and other big projects may be
less consequential in California, where state law puts checks
on new development. By no means, however, would California go
Recently, property owner United Technologies Corp. has asked
the state to change cleanup requirements of the property from
residential to commercial standards, according to the documents
filed with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control
Board, which oversees the remediation efforts.
The majority of groundwater wells drawing water for Santa
Clarita Valley Water contain enough of a non-stick chemical,
which is a suspected carcinogen, that water officials are now
required by the state to notify the county about the find. Of
the agency’s 45 operational wells, 29 of them were found to
contain tiny amounts of of perfluorooctanoic acid and
A California company that produces Crystal Geyser bottled water
pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally storing and transporting
hazardous waste and agreed to a $5 million fine, federal
prosecutors said. The waste was produced by filtering arsenic
out of Sierra Nevada spring water at CG Roxane LLC’s facility
in Owens Valley, authorities said.
Who can deny the value of potable water to every living thing
in this city, this county, this state? Four million residential
and industrial customers in 43 cities in the Los Angeles, San
Gabriel and San Fernando Basins are dependent on multiple water
sources – groundwater pumped from below them, by aqueduct from
the Colorado River, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, Mono Lake, the
Owens Valley and recycled from wastewater treatment plants.
When lawmakers in the House of Representatives approved the
Trump administration’s new trade deal with Mexico and Canada
last month, they authorized $300 million to help fix failing
sewer systems that send raw sewage and toxic pollution flowing
into rivers along the U.S.-Mexico border. … But environmental
groups are condemning the new United States-Mexico-Canada
Agreement, or USMCA, saying it fails to establish binding
standards to curb pollution in Mexico’s industrial zones.
More than 1.4 million children covered by California’s Medicaid
health care program have not received the required testing for
lead poisoning, state auditors reported Tuesday, and the two
agencies charged with administering tests and preventing future
exposure have fallen short on their responsibilities.
Since 2015, the state’s commercial fishermen have reported
nearly record-low catches. Fish hatcheries produce most of the
salmon caught in California today, and with much of their
inland habitat badly degraded, truly wild salmon are scarce.
But a small circle of biologists and fishermen believe they can
revive California’s legendary Chinook to something resembling
its historic glory.
The state this year could require rug and carpet makers to come
up with safer alternatives for their stain- and water-resistant
products. After-market treatments with per- and polyfluoroalkyl
substances (PFAS) that help consumers protect their boots,
clothes, and other textiles from rain, snow, and grease could
also face the same fate. So, too, could food packaging items,
even as bans on PFAS in single-use bowls, plates, and utensils
take effect Jan. 1 in San Francisco and other cities in the
The White House announced Tuesday that President Trump would
likely veto legislation designed to manage a class of
cancer-linked chemicals leaching into the water supply. The
chemicals, known by the abbreviation PFAS, are used in a
variety of nonstick products such as raincoats, cookware and
packaging and have been found in nearly every state in the
The river is a powerful example of Mexico’s failure to protect
its environment: A New York Times analysis of 15 years of
efforts to clean up the Santiago found that attempts floundered
in the face of legal loopholes, deficient funding and a lack of
San Francisco officials were quick to dispute Trump’s claims.
But some of California’s most prized rivers, beaches and
streams are indeed contaminated with levels of fecal bacteria
that exceed state limits, threatening kayakers, swimmers — and
the state’s reputation as a bastion of environmental
It started with last month’s heavy rains that brought an
unprecedented volume of debris tumbling down Tijuana’s Matadero
Canyon: old mattresses, used furniture, discarded construction
material. That led to a clogged storm drain by the border
fence, authorities said, and the flooding of a nearby sewage
pump station. The resulting pool of trash and
sewage-contaminated water has now been raising fears in San
Federal agency representatives on Friday night kept the
conversation going with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley about continued
efforts to save two Klamath Basin sucker species from
extinction. … Merkley has delivered $23.5 million to the
Basin since 2013 to find a way toward a solution. He recently
secured $11 million for sucker recovery efforts, including $5.1
million for the Klamath River.
A bill that would require the EPA to regulate PFAS, an emerging
family of chemicals contaminating U.S. municipal and private
water supplies, is slated to be the first major legislation
that the House will take up in 2020.
Climate change is already affecting water management across the
state. Small rural communities with ongoing drinking water
challenges are especially vulnerable to greater extremes
brought on by a warming climate. We talked to Jan Coppinger, a
special district administrator from Lake County, about how the
county’s small water systems have dealt with an especially
devastating string of natural disasters.
The Trump administration has stripped away its regulatory
authority, threatened to cut its highway funding and called its
dirty waterways a “significant public health concern.” But it
isn’t picking a fight with California. That’s what Andrew
Wheeler, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, claimed
about actions his office has taken recently when it comes to
air and water pollution in the big blue state.
New data shows that rainwater in some parts of the US contains
high enough levels of potentially toxic per- and
polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to possibly affect human
health and may, if found in drinking water, in some cases be
high enough to trigger regulatory action.
The company, Watsonville-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc., was
accused of polluting a South Bay creek with manure for years,
despite orders and warnings dating back to the 1980s. The
judgment, the largest for a water pollution lawsuit in county
history, will be used in part to restore the damaged Fisher
Environmental groups say they plan to fight a Trump
administration decision that cleared the way for new oil and
gas leases on more than 1 million acres in California. … The
final supplemental environmental report released recently said
the BLM found no adverse impacts of hydraulic fracturing that
could not be alleviated. Several groups and state officials,
however, disagree and have called the
The spending deal does not include a requirement for EPA to
regulate PFAS in drinking water, meaning lawmakers will leave
town this week without significant regulatory action on the
A provision tucked within the EPA’s proposal to overhaul the
way it regulates lead in drinking water—initially derided as
toothless—could have far-reaching consequences for public
health, municipal policies, and even real estate transactions,
water industry insiders now say. The proposal would require all
water utilities across the country to inventory the location of
all of their lead pipes and then make that information public.
Nitrogen pollution, largely from burning fossil fuels,
industrial agriculture and wildfire can reduce drinking water
quality and make air difficult to breathe. Thanks to a $1.1
million grant from the National Science Foundation, we will
soon have a better understanding of how much nitrogen arid
ecosystems can absorb before they produce negative effects.
Passing the new North American free trade agreement would mean
millions of dollars to help upgrade sewage infrastructure on
the border, say the agreement’s backers. But an environmental
group and a local organization on the U.S.-Mexico border say
it’s not enough.
As an appointee to the San Francisco Regional Water Quality
Control Board, Newsha Ajami has worked with local, state and
federal agencies to monitor and ensure water quality in areas
affected by wildfires. Ajami is director of urban water policy
at Stanford’s Water in the West program, and co-leads the Urban
Water Systems & Institutions Thrust at Re-Inventing the
Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), a National
Science Foundation engineering research center based at
Stanford. She discussed wildfire’s threat to water quality with
The Rosamond Community Services District will replace the last
large areas of asbestos concrete water pipes in a project
slated to start early next year. On Wednesday, the Board of
Directors awarded a contract to California Compaction for $2.3
million to complete the pipe replacement project.
The Board plans to make the compiled responses publicly
available and encourage the 14,000 licensed child care centers
in the state to buy new fixtures from those on the list when
water testing indicates the fixture should be replaced.
The Trump administration on Thursday gave the go-ahead to new
oil-drilling leases on federal land in California, mostly
around petroleum-rich Bakersfield but also in less-obvious
spots in the Sierra foothills, such as near Yosemite National
The new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement reached
Tuesday commits the federal government to provide $300 million
for the Border Water Infrastructure Program to address
pollution on the U.S.-Mexico border, including the Tijuana
River Valley region, where millions of gallons of raw sewage,
heavy metals and other contaminants regularly flow from Tijuana
to San Diego.
Researchers combed through six years of data, from 2012 to
2018, to examine how L.A. County has mitigated the issue, most
visible in the 72-hour aftermath of rainfall but persists
during dry weather in the form of runoff from driveways and
sidewalks. As it turns out, not much has been done, largely
because of a lack of transparent requirements when it comes to
the monitoring of stormwater pollution by various
Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would
require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing
toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to
place stronger regulations on the chemicals.
Homeless volunteers collect so much trash in the Russian River
watershed — 150,000 pounds as of October this year — that the
state Water Resources Control Board sees it as a model for the
rest of California.
The state is moving to ramp down oil production while
Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a
closer look at the environmental and health threats —
especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy
extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that
existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive
landscapes as well as public health.
The report by the Environmental Integrity Project released on
Thursday showed some 30 states have reduced funding for
pollution control programs, 16 of them by more than 20%. Forty
states, meanwhile, have cut staffing at environmental agencies,
half of them by at least 10%, the report showed.
Water suppliers across the nation could be required to sample
for manmade “forever chemicals” in an attempt to gauge just how
prevalent the contaminants are in drinking supplies. … Every
five years the Environmental Protection Agency can order large
water suppliers and a sampling of smaller districts to test for
up 30 chemicals that aren’t currently regulated by the Safe
Drinking Water Act.
The City Council will certify the Water Quality and Flood
Protection Initiative at its Dec. 17 meeting after Alameda
property owners voted in favor of a fee hike. … The increased
fee will fund repairs and new pump stations, which is vital to
combat potential flooding as sea levels rise; improve lagoon
systems, enhance street sweeping procedures and maintain and
install new trash capture devices. These devices are key to
keeping the shoreline free of trash and other debris.
A state official said Wednesday he intends to notify the city
of Poway that its water storage reservoir is out of compliance,
a situation he said directly contributed to last week’s storm
water overflow that has left the entire community under a
boil-water advisory and temporarily shuttered nearly 200
Elected leaders from across South Bay San Diego announced
Tuesday a joint effort aimed at pressuring the federal
government to support a long-term fix to the sewage pollution
that routinely flows over the border from Tijuana, fouling
beaches as far north as Coronado.
Cities like Huron, with a population of 6,926 and a $22,802
median household income, are often too small to expand water
access projects that could lower utility rates. While cities
like Delano are too big to qualify for rural development
projects from the federal government. But a new proposal could
soon alleviate those pains.
Nevada County has released the results of a state water board
investigation into the mysterious yellow sediment plume that
closed off the South Yuba River in September. A historic mine
property on Kilham Mine Road, initially targeted as the
suspected source of the discharge, was cleared by the Central
Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in late October.
Napa city leaders have advocated for detailed water monitoring
in order to safeguard a watershed area that lies largely
outside its direct control. Some 34,000 acres in rural Napa
County, as far north as Angwin, drain into Lake Hennessey, but
the city owns only 2,822 acres.
Rains caused storm drains to back up into Poway’s water
treatment facility, officials said. Crews are working around
the clock to clean and flush the system, which may take two to
five days before the water is declared safe. The county health
department ordered the closing of all restaurants in the city
and residents are being advised to boil their tap water before
drinking it or using it for cooking, city officials said.
For three years, residents of the unincorporated San Bernardino
County desert town have used twice-a-month shipments of bottled
water because local wells were no longer meeting state
standards for drinking water. … That changed in September,
when work finished on a new pipeline that pulls clean water
from a well 4 miles away in Yucca Valley.
The kiosks take city tap water – which must be clean enough to
meet state and federal quality standards – run it through a
filtration system that removes chemicals such as chlorine to
improve taste, then dispense it to customers at an 8,000% to
10,000% mark-up. Vended water is cheaper than individually
sealed, store-bought bottles, but many times more expensive
than tap water.
Authorities have reopened about six miles of Orange County
ocean and bay water areas closed by a 1.4-million-gallon sewage
spill. … The estimated amount of the spill was revised down
from 4 million gallons. The city of Laguna Beach said
wastewater began leaking Wednesday afternoon from a broken
valve on a 24-inch city sewage pipe near Aliso and Wood Canyons
A multimillion-dollar federal study on toxic chemicals in
drinking water is facing delays because of a dispute within the
Trump administration, according to several people involved in
the study… The dispute has implications for more than half a
dozen communities where drinking water has been heavily
contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Environmental advocates say the law has compelled companies to
quietly make their products and emissions less toxic. But some
economists who are critical of government regulation argue the
law has gone too far, plastering the state with warnings so
ubiquitous that they’ve become meaningless to most consumers.
And as in other parts of the United States, black migrants were
met with Jim Crow-style racism: “Whites Only” signs, curfews
and discriminatory practices by banks. Often, the only places
black families could settle were on arid acres on the outskirts
of cultivated farmland — places like Teviston… Today, the
legacy of segregation in the Central Valley reverberates
underground, through old pipes, dry wells and soil tainted by
shoddy septic systems.
Back in 2016, California Water Service Co. took two of its
groundwater wells in Chico out of service after tests showed
they were contaminated with toxic flourinated chemicals known
as PFAS—or per- and polyfluoralkyl substances—that have been
linked to cancer and other adverse health effects. The move was
For as far as I could see, east and west, the banks were
littered with plastic cups, fast-food containers, spray paint
cans and chip wrappers. It had rained a smidgen the day before,
the first wet weather of the season, and this was what had
washed downstream from the area west of downtown Los Angeles.
EPA’s announcement Monday asked the public to weigh in on a
proposal to add PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI),
which would push municipalities to alert people right away if
the substance has been found in tap water. It would also
require manufacturers who use PFAS to report annually how much
of each chemical is released to the environment.
Through a variety of panel discussions, presentations and a
showcase of student research, the Re:Border conference is
exploring how San Diego State University and its regional
partners can contribute to innovative solutions for
water-related challenges in the transborder region.
A bi-national conference at San Diego State University was
aimed at analyzing water resources in the Baja California and
San Diego border region where challenges include cross-border
pollution and water scarcity… Experts at the Reborder 2019
conference discussed ways to improve regional access to “a
secure and reliable water supply” through wastewater treatment
Three times as much mercury has been found in mountain lions in
the Santa Cruz Mountains than in their inland brethren, and the
likely culprit is coastal fog, a first-of-its-kind study by UC
Santa Cruz has found. The fog is apparently pulling mercury out
of the ocean and dripping it over the coastal mountains…
It will be two years in December that the city of Chino Hills
shut down its wells because of a new contamination level set by
the state for the chemical 1,2,3-TCP (TCP) and it could take
another three years before a filtration system can be built to
treat the chemical and put the wells back in service, according
to public works officials.
The Environmental Protection Agency fanned the flames of an
ongoing dispute with San Francisco on Thursday, reaffirming its
stance that the city’s water agency improperly discharges
wastewater into the ocean. In a letter to the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission, EPA officials reiterated their
assessment that the city was out of step with its wastewater
discharge permit, which regulates water quality standards.
City officials gathered Thursday afternoon in Lemoore to break
ground on construction of a new groundwater treatment plant
project. … The City obtains all of its drinking water from
local groundwater resources that are challenged by
naturally-occurring water quality issues. These issues include
elevated levels of arsenic, iron, ammonia, total organic carbon
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency wrongly
allowed oil waste to be dumped into a San Luis Obispo aquifer
and ignored impacts to the California red-legged frog and other
With drone photography, “we can track all of the trash in a
creek, river, or stream, examine how it’s distributed, and then
apply machine-learning algorithms to analyze those images as
often as we want,” says Tony Hale, program director for
environmental informatics at the nonprofit San Francisco
Estuary Institute. The drone research is part of a new project
by SFEI and its sister organization Southern California Coastal
Water Research Project, through funding from the Ocean
In Napa County, adjacent to Sonoma and the source of perhaps
the most expensive cabernet sauvignon outside of Bordeaux,
activists are pushing back against a steady conversion of
woodland into new vineyards. Kellie Anderson, an independent
watchdog who has harried local officials for years to step up
enforcement of environmental laws, says the county’s planning
department has ignored numerous violations by grape growers.
California’s search for the source of “forever chemicals” in
drinking water is expanding to include military sites,
wastewater treatment plants, chrome-plating facilities, and
refineries. Surveys indicate an estimated 3.5 million
Californians use drinking water supplies with per- and
polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, above federal health
Water experts are still finding traces of harmful chemicals in
parts of the water systems burned by the Camp Fire and in
interior plumbing more than a year after the disaster, but the
cases are rare. … An outside team of researchers … has
found only a few cases where volatile organic compounds that
are harmful to human health seeped into home plumbing from the
water system. Most of those cases tested largely below unsafe
In a victory for critics of California’s oil drilling industry,
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday stopped the approval of new
hydraulic fracturing in the state until the permits for those
projects can be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists.
Newsom also imposed a moratorium on new permits for
steam-injected oil drilling, another extraction method …
linked to a massive petroleum spill in Kern County over the
As Donald Trump’s administration pushes to expand oil
extraction in California, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom,
has signed bill after bill limiting the practice. … But since
taking office in January, Newsom’s own department of energy
management has approved 33 percent more new oil and gas
drilling permits than were approved under Newsom’s predecessor
Jerry Brown over the same period in 2018
Thousands of gallons of partially treated wastewater was
released from California Men’s Colony into Chorro Creek
Thursday morning, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health
department said… Approximately 33,000 gallons of wastewater
were released from the prison north of San Luis Obispo…
Since July, at least a half dozen surface expressions have been
reported into the state spill report database, including one in
early November, totaling more than 2.7 million gallons of oil,
water and mud. … Under strengthened state regulations, these
surface expressions became illegal only in April of this year.
But that doesn’t mean the public knows about all of them or how
close they occur to communities…
Two months after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana
farm on public land deep in the Northern California wilderness,
authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup
costs at the site where trees were clear-cut, waterways were
diverted, and the ground was littered with open containers of
fertilizer and rodenticide.
At issue in the proposal posted yesterday by the EPA is the
threshold level of atrazine, the second most widely used
herbicide in the U.S. Manufactured by Syngenta, atrazine is
primarily used in agriculture as a weedkiller on crops. It is
not authorized for use in the European Union, as the body said
there wasn’t enough data to prove it wouldn’t have a harmful
effect on groundwater.
California took a historic step forward this summer with the
passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This
fund seeks to provide new targeted investments to end the
state’s drinking water crisis, where one million Californians
are impacted by unsafe water each year. Unfortunately,
successful implementation of the fund is on a potential
collision course with another California law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act…
An ongoing study on the quality of the country’s drinking water
conducted by a national environmental group shows that several
contaminants found in San Clemente’s tap water exceeded the
nonprofit’s recommended safety standards.
The board charged with overseeing the water quality in much of
the San Francisco Bay Area unanimously approved a plan
requiring local businesses, residents and government agencies
to reduce the amount of fecal bacteria they put into the
Petaluma River watershed, including San Antonio Creek.
Today, the quality of river water has improved markedly since
the early 1970s, though critics say the red tape imposed
through the Clean Water Act has become burdensome. The Clean
Water Act has not been altered much over the past 50 years,
though how we interpret the act has recently changed
An unlikely coalition in California — including
environmentalists, law enforcement agents, politicians,
wildlife ecologists and representatives of the legal cannabis
industry — have joined forces to try to reduce these illegal
operations and the environmental threat they pose.
In this episode, we explore a carcinogen called 1,2,3
Tetracholorpropane, which ended up in the water below
California’s Central Valley. … We also hear from John Hadder
and Dr. Glenn Miller, with Great Basin Resource Watch, about
how some of the groundwater in Nevada became contaminated due
to mining operations near Yerington.
Boeing worked with the state and installed a massive system of
plastic pipes, treatment systems and holding ponds meant to
filter and manage potentially toxic rainwater before it poured
downhill… Then the giant Woolsey Fire ignited at the
old laboratory… Flames destroyed plastic piping and tore
through the storm water system before ravaging another 94,000
acres as the fire stormed west to the sea, according to state
and Boeing records.
California might have the fifth largest economy in the world,
but many people in the state’s disadvantaged communities feel
like they are living in a third world country because they
don’t have safe, clean and affordable drinking water.
The lessons gained from the 2018 wildfires that swept through
Paradise, in Northern California, and along the Los
Angeles-Ventura County border in Southern California are still
being absorbed by water managers around California as they
recognize that the old emergency preparedness plans of
yesterday may not be adequate for the new wildfire reality of
Winding westward along Marin County’s northern border, San
Antonio Creek encompasses about 20 percent of the Petaluma
River watershed. While the state has continuously designated
the main stem of the Petaluma River a contaminated water body
due to excessive levels of bacteria tied to fecal matter since
1975, San Antonio Creek, a tributary to the river, has gone
unaffected by the river’s bacteria problem. Until now.
It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends
of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water
districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the
state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it
can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems
and upend an agency’s finances.
On a secluded corner of Marywood Drive in Paradise sit two
vacant lots, side by side. The empty space used to hold
single-family residences surrounded by Ponderosa pines. That
was until the November 2018 Camp Fire — California’s deadliest
and most destructive wildfire — leveled the Butte County town
and destroyed more than 13,000 homes. Now, one year later,
these lots are being rebuilt by two Paradise natives, Christine
and Dave Williams, who bought the properties after the fire.
Drillers punched hundreds of shallow wells in the California
seafloor off Santa Barbara County at the turn of the 20th
century — only to abandon them in the early 1900s. … But the
oil has lingered. It leaks from the orphaned wells and seeps
from the ocean floor naturally off the Santa Barbara coast…
It leaves tar on the beach and a sheen on the waters.
Environmentalists worry about damage to the ecosystem and
threats to public health…
In recent years the idea of nutrient management has been become
even more important with increasing regulations related to
nitrate levels in groundwater. Cooperation between water
agencies and CDFA has helped to provide better education and
outreach for the development of balance sheets for nutrient
A supplemental environmental impact report on hydraulic
fracturing released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management found no significant impacts, and plans for leasing
1.2 million acres for oil and gas development in eight
counties, including Santa Barbara County, will not change.
Authorities seized more than $1.5 billion worth of illegally
grown marijuana plants in California this year — an amount an
industry expert said is roughly equal to the state’s entire
legal market — as part of an annual eradication program,
officials said Monday. … Law enforcement raids often find
illegal farms that have dammed or diverted public streams and
dumped dangerous pesticides including carbofuran, methyl
parathion and aluminum phosphate…
Jaime Bonilla was sworn into office Friday as governor of
California’s neighboring Mexican state. … In his first major
speech since taking office, Governor Bonilla promised to
address poverty, public safety issues and end cross-border
sewage flows within six months. Bonilla, a dual U.S.-Mexico
citizen, formerly served as an elected member of the Otay Water
District in Chula Vista.
The initial selling point of Prop. 65 — that it would eliminate
toxins in the water supply by holding big business liable for
its leaks — has largely been forgotten in 2019. These days, the
law is better known for requiring eyebrow-raising warning
labels on everything from bread to steering wheel covers to —
briefly — Starbucks coffee, and it has turned into a national
A team led by USC Viterbi’s Adam Smith has found that purified
water returned to Southern California aquifers often becomes
contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a realization
that could have major implications on the global water supply.
As the state focuses on providing clean and affordable drinking
water for millions of residents, those on private wells
typically face an uphill battle. Private well owners confront
significant financial challenges digging new wells, and
connecting to a public water system involves a daunting local
and state bureaucratic process…
The Trump administration unveiled a plan to open another
million acres in California to oil and gas development and
fracking, one day after being sued by conservationists for
similar plans in a different part of the state. The Bureau of
Land Management released its environmental analysis Thursday
concluding that hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas extraction
in counties located in the south state do not conflict with the
land management goals of the agency.
Nearly a year later, crews are working to clean up the last
toxic remains from the Camp Fire. The household and industrial
chemicals in the soil and airborne ash are mostly gone, carried
away by the truckload as part of debris removal. The
contamination that does persist is mostly hyper-local and is
being removed after additional, costly steps.
Prosecutions of environmental crimes dropped to historic lows
under the Trump administration last fiscal year and one legal
expert believes that could endanger public health. “There’s a
risk that unenforced violations could lead to fires, leaks,
spills, and contamination,” said Ethan Elkind, climate program
director at the University of California, Berkeley School of
Drinking water wells in two areas of San Luis Obispo County are
contaminated with potentially toxic “forever chemicals,”
according to recently released results of state water testing.
The local testing found that 15 wells in San Luis Obispo and
Atascadero had levels high enough to require notification to
water system governing boards.
As media coverage focuses on the more immediate public health
crisis of vaping, and its link to a recent spate of mysterious
lung illnesses and deaths, researchers like Mock and Hendlin
caution there also is a looming environmental threat.
A tiny community on the outskirts of the City of Sanger,
Tombstone is a bellwether for groundwater issues… Most of the
community’s 40 or so homes get their drinking water from
shallow domestic wells, which can be vulnerable to both aquifer
contaminants and falling groundwater levels.
Results from the first phase of sampling drinking water supply
wells for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were
recently published by the California State Water Resources
Control Board (State Water Board) and show reportable levels at
approximately 190 or 35% of the 570 wells tested.
The initiative, which the seashore facilitated in collaboration
with ranchers, conservation organizations and regulatory
agencies, began in 1999 and included three main types of best
practices: fencing, hardened stream crossings and the creation
of separate water systems for cattle.
We spoke with Environmental Working Group senior scientist
Tasha Stoiber about what we know and don’t know about the
safety of our drinking water — and what steps communities can
take protect themselves.
After The Times reported last week that nearly 300 drinking
water wells and other water sources in California had been
contaminated with toxic chemicals linked to cancer, readers
wanted to know what they could do. … We talked to industry
experts, and the following are their best answers to some of
the most often-asked questions we received.
Action by the state water board sets in motion a 35-year
program of activity and research to address nitrate and salt
content in Central Valley groundwater, in order to achieve
Communities throughout the American West have spent decades
cleaning up what the mining industry left behind. In Moab,
those leftovers are the visible pile of uranium tailings, left
alongside on the banks of arguably the region’s most important
A newly updated database from the nonprofit Environmental
Working Group (EWG) documents nearly 280 contaminants lurking
in US drinking water. Two of the most prevalent and concerning
chemicals, arsenic and hexavalent chromium, were found in
drinking water in all 50 states. Both chemicals are known
carcinogens commonly found in California taps.
It all starts with the water quality of the creek that runs
alongside Mission Plaza. The Central Coast Regional Water
Quality Control Board has determined the water is so
contaminated with fecal matter, the city has to do something
about it to prevent people from getting sick with E. Coli and
A class of toxic chemicals known to have contaminated drinking
water in many areas across the country is also presenting human
health risks via another exposure method — our food supply. The
contamination stems from treated sewage sludge — or biosolids —
often used by farmers as a fertilizer for crops.
Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of
unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in
U.S. cities of all sizes. … Still, with only a handful of
exceptions, “water systems aren’t designed to focus on health,
they’re focused on cost-containment,” says Seth Siegel, whose
book “Troubled Water,” released this month, examines the
precarious state of water infrastructure in the U.S.
The Santa Barbara County board of supervisors is taking a stand
against the Trump administration. The resolution was sponsored
by First District County Supervisor Gregg Hart in response to
the Trump Administration’s plan to open more than one million
acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of
central California to new oil drilling and fracking.
Thousands of gallons of crude petroleum began spouting out of
the ground near a part of Chevron’s steam injection well
network in a Kern County oil field over the weekend … in the
same area where a larger uncontrolled release of 234,000
gallons of oil has taken place since August.
When the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Andrew
Wheeler, accused California of allowing “piles of human feces”
on city streets to contaminate sewer systems … the
accusations, contained in a Sept. 26 oversight letter, had been
developed without the knowledge of the California-based staff,
which would normally issue such notices. Instead, it was put
together by a small group of political appointees in Washington
assigned specifically to target California, according to three
current E.P.A. officials.
When nitrogen-based fertiliser runs into water systems it can
result in toxic algae blooms, leading to oxygen depletion and
vast oceanic ‘dead zones’. Evidence suggests their use also
contributes to air pollution, increased rates of cancer and
reduced biodiversity, as well as emitting nitrous oxide – an
extremely potent greenhouse gas. … A team of scientists, led
by the University of California, Davis, has come up with a
five-step plan to tackle this two-sided problem.
Deadly fires across California over the past several years have
shown how wildfire has become a serious public health and
safety issue. Health effects from fires close to or in
populated areas range from smoke exposure to drinking water
contaminated by chemicals like benzene to limited options for
the medically vulnerable. These kinds of threats are becoming
major, statewide concerns.
Later this week, the State Water Resources Control Board will
vote on a long-anticipated plan to reduce some of the
pollutants flowing into Central Valley water. However, not
everyone agrees on the details.
Access to safe and affordable water is a basic human right.
Many of our communities have been without safe water for years
or even decades because of contamination of our drinking water
sources. Living in communities without safe water is a public
health crisis. It is also a crisis of basic justice and equity.
Nearly 300 drinking water wells and other water sources in
California have traces of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, new
state testing has found. … State officials released the water
quality results on Monday, the first step in what’s likely to
be a years-long effort to track the scale of the contamination
and pinpoint its sources.
A provider of drinking water in Sacramento County is seeking
reimbursement from the U.S. Air Force for a filtration system
it installed to take contaminants out of groundwater near the
former Mather Air Force Base.
Almost a year after wildfire ravaged the small wooded town,
residents are still advised not to drink or bathe with tap
water. Crews have hauled away more debris than workers took
from the World Trade Center after 9/11. They’re nearly done.
In case you’ve noticed some of the storm drains in the City of
Pasadena covered, the Department of Public Works wants you to
know it’s just following the rules. The covers are “catch
basins” and they are used for gathering trash samples
throughout the City to help in complying with mandated Total
Maximum Daily Load limits.
In an effort to reduce litter, wildfire risk, and ocean
pollution from cigarette butts, smoking will be banned on all
of California’s state beaches and in state parks under a new
law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Starting Jan. 1, it will be
illegal to smoke cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaping devices “or
any other lighted or heated tobacco or plant product intended
for inhalation” on any state beach or in any state park in
Conditions tipped from bleak into officially alarming in
late August when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
announced that the water residents drink, cook with and bathe
in had been contaminated with arsenic at 10 times the allowable
The draft plan … includes some provisions designed to
strengthen oversight of lead in drinking water. But it skips a
pricey safety proposal advocated by public health groups and
water utilities: the immediate replacement of six million lead
pipes that connect homes to main water pipes. The proposed new
rule would also more than double the amount of time allotted to
replace lead pipes …
The majority of California’s elected leaders oppose Trump’s
plans. A majority of Californians also believes the state
should ban the dangerous practice called “fracking,” which
injects poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals deep into the
Partially inspired by the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, the
Environmental Protection Agency announced a new rule to reduce
exposure to lead from drinking water around the country on
Thursday. … Wheeler said the new rule will help remove the
most corrosive pipes with the highest risk of releasing lead
The Senate approved almost $20 million in funding to address
sewage flows along the border. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who
secured language in three different appropriations bills for
the 2020 fiscal year, called the spills that send millions of
gallons of raw sewage from Tijuana to San Diego,
After morning services, Florin Ciuriuc joined the line of
worshipers waiting to fill their jugs with gallons of free
drinking water from a well on the property, a practice church
leaders had encouraged. Church leaders boasted it was the
cleanest water in Sacramento, according to Ciuriuc. In fact,
test results showed the water contained toxic chemicals from
firefighting foam used for decades on a now-shuttered Air Force
base a mile away.
Pulling weeds is not usually a great way to start a party. But
filling a dumpster with invasive species was just the right
activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Tijuana River
Action Month on Saturday.
The Trump administration’s latest effort to dramatically boost
oil and gas production is landing in California, with the
Interior Department on Friday opening up 720,000 acres between
the Bay Area and Fresno to potential drilling.
There should be no “acceptable” amount of risk we’re willing to
take when it comes to water quality or the health of our
children and families. From Los Angeles to Sacramento to
Washington, D.C. — in all the places I’ve worked — this belief
has fueled my desire to fight for clean and safe water in our
California has embarked on a statewide assessment to identify
the scope of PFAS contamination in the state, focusing
primarily on PFOA and PFAS. … Most recently, on August 23,
2019 the State Water Board lowered notification levels for PFOA
and PFOS to 5.1 ppt and 6.5 ppt, respectively. The announcement
also stated that response levels for these contaminants will be
updated this fall.
The spread of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) through the
water system could put public safety at-risk. Researchers
studied and compared samples from an advanced groundwater
treatment facility in California and groundwater aquifers…
They found that the advanced groundwater treatment facility
reduced nearly all targeted ARGs to below detection limits, but
groundwater samples had a ubiquitous presence of ARGs …
A UC Cooperative Extension survey of California registered and
unregistered marijuana growers will help researchers,
policymakers and the public better understand growing practices
since cannabis sales, possession and cultivation first became
legal for recreational use.
The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid
inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change
management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on natural contaminants
such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants
that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health…
Nevada County health officials continue to investigate a
“plume” of contamination on the South Yuba River that tested
positive for E. coli bacteria last month, now saying that a
property previously identified as a possible source of the
pollution does not appear to be connected to the incident. …
A “complex” investigation is continuing…
On Tuesday night, members of the agency’s board received
official word from staffers that trace amounts of a chemical
called PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, were found in 17 of
its wells, requiring them to now notify key agencies about the
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of
violation to San Francisco on Wednesday, accusing the city of
improperly discharging waste into the ocean and bay and
following through on President Trump’s recent pledge to cite
San Francisco for water pollution.
Water board members voiced concern at the last meeting over
what to do if state officials lower the threshold for PFAS
contamination to such a level that the wells would have to be
shut down. The board decided not to wait for such an
announcement and agreed to get the necessary water treatment
equipment up and running as soon as possible.
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
Senate Bill No. 690 seeks to reduce exposure to dangerous
pathogens, limit beach closures and address water quality
issues in the Tijuana River Valley. The bill will also allow a
$15 million budget allocation for cleanup efforts as well as
prioritizing projects that will address water quality, flood
control, trash and sediment.
Water vending machine companies compete aggressively to sell
water outside of supermarkets and pharmacies at an incredible
markup. The industry is only lightly regulated – last year the
California Department of Public Health inspected just two
machines in San Diego County.
Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have
allowed California to preserve Obama-era endangered species
protections and water-pumping restrictions for the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should they be dismantled by the
Trump administration, a move scorned by environmental groups
that have been among the governor’s most important political
The California Water Boards sent at least 270 letters to
farmers in the Emerald Triangle, warning them to come into
compliance with regulations or face possible fines and even the
loss of their cultivation licenses.
There are numerous agencies involved in water quality issues
that are focused on the San Francisco Bay and the Delta. In
this brown bag seminar, Stephanie Fong, Interagency Ecological
Program Coordinator Chair, California Department of Fish and
Wildlife, discussed the technical, geographical, and political
boundaries that separate water quality monitoring in the Bay
and the Delta.
UC San Diego scientists sifting through nearly 200 years of
Santa Barbara Channel sediment discovered an “explosion” of
plastic pollution after World War II, according to a study
published in the journal Science Advances. Core samples dating
back to 1834 revealed that the amount of microscopic plastics
in the channel doubled about every 15 years since the 1940s.
The Trump administration continued pounding California
officials over the environment Thursday, blaming San Francisco
and Los Angeles’ homelessness for polluting their cities’ water
and demanding Gov. Gavin Newsom address a wide range of
shortcomings with drinking water supplies.
Officials said in a news release that a property in the 13000
block of Kilham Mine Road in Nevada City was likely the source
of the plume that moved downstream into Englebright Lake. …
Investigators discovered multiple code violations on the
property and county code enforcement is working with the
property owner to rectify the violations.
Elected leaders from around the San Diego region met with the
Trump administration on Tuesday to ask for help stopping the
sewage-tainted water that regularly flows in the Tijuana River
across the border with Mexico. Specifically, regional leaders
tried to persuade federal authorities to fund a more than
$400-million plan to capture and treat the pollution…
A report released Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group
found variants of the chemicals known as PFAS in 74 community
water systems between 2013 and 2019, according to data from
state and federal regulators. More than 40 percent of the
systems had at least one sample that exceeded the health
advisory level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey concludes oilfield
activity has lowered the quality of groundwater in western Kern
County, making it saltier and possibly affecting nearby
irrigation sources but not harming drinking water.
Authorities have not yet determined the source of contamination
of an E. coli outbreak detected on a stretch of the South Yuba
River in Nevada County, but the water has now returned to a
safe condition, environmental health officials said Tuesday
Nevada County authorities are still working to determine the
source of contamination after discolored water in the South
Yuba River tested positive for “dangerous” levels of E. coli
over the weekend, prompting a no-swim advisory.
Santa Clara County has 23 active Superfund sites, more than any
other county in the United States. … The sites came to the
attention of the EPA after groundwater testing in the area
revealed that toxic chemicals—notably, a solvent called
trichloroethylene—were present, possibly from leaking pipes or
underground storage tanks.
At least 85 different federal laws and regulations affecting
California have been weakened or undermined by the Trump
administration since January 2017. … That’s why I, along with
many proponents, believe that Senate Bill 1 would safeguard our
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you
don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there,
underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres —
is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land
going to come back up? I don’t know.”
The mayor of this beach town, which abuts Tijuana, Mexico at a
point that is visible by a border wall marking the two
countries, is fed up with sewage and toxic chemicals flowing
into the United States, and he is heading to Washington, D.C.,
to ask the Trump administration to do something about it.
Two bills to ban smoking at all state beaches — with a $25 fine
for violators — have reached Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk and await
his signature. Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar bills
three times, saying people should be allowed to smoke outdoors
in parks. But this year there’s a new governor.
Ten months after the Camp Fire, the region’s major drinking
water systems — Paradise Irrigation District and Del Oro Water
Company — still contained unsafe levels of cancer-causing
chemicals. … Even today, there is still a general state of
confusion about the safety of residential drinking water.
The law said schools had to test by July, but many schools
still hadn’t submitted the results by the deadline. As of
September 9, about a quarter of California schools now report
detectable levels of lead in school drinking water but it
appears many schools in our area still haven’t submitted the
Our beaches, bays and waterways are central to who we are as
San Diegans and to our unique way of life. But in a heavily
urbanized region clean water doesn’t just happen; it takes hard
work and stewardship.
It’s a big feat to get 65,000 people to do anything, let alone
spend three hours picking up soiled trash. Yet, state officials
are expecting around that number to turn out Saturday for the
35th annual Coastal Cleanup Day.
“There’s tremendous pollution being put into the ocean because
they’re going through what’s called the storm sewer that’s for
rainwater,” Trump said. “And we have tremendous things that we
don’t have to discuss pouring into the ocean. You know there
are needles, there are other things.”
Tijuana’s sewage system appears to be incapable of handling the
sewage generated in the Mexican city, and Imperial Beach Mayor
Serge Dedina called the situation unacceptable. Dedina hoped to
get the attention of President Donald Trump, who is in San
Diego on Wednesday for a fundraiser.
In 2019, at long last, justice was finally achieved; it was
secured through the combined power of the people and allies who
said it was finally time to bring safe water to all
Californians. On July 24, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation
that will make sure all Californians have access to safe,
affordable drinking water.
In a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Heliyon
Thursday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 22
carcinogens commonly found in tap water — including arsenic,
byproducts of water disinfectants and radionuclides such as
uranium and radium — could cumulatively result in over 100,000
cancer cases over the span of a lifetime.
A report that the homeless living along the San Gabriel
Riverbed may have contaminated the water supply has city and
water officials scrambling to spread the message that the water
in the east San Gabriel Valley is safe to drink, officials
Our research group studies long-term trends in drinking-water
quality and what factors cause unsafe water. Our studies have
shown that this public health crisis can be corrected through
better enforcement, stricter sampling protocols, revised
federal regulations and more funding for state agencies.
Most of the county-run wells in Pioneertown were taken out of
service due to high concentrations of uranium and arsenic. The
new pipeline connects the existing Pioneertown water
distribution system to a Hi-Desert Water District well through
the installation of approximately 4 miles of transmission
pipeline and two booster stations.