Who Contaminated California’s Water?

California

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OPINION – It’s time to face facts: Expecting pure water to flow from our kitchen faucet is no longer something we can take for granted.

We fill our glasses at our tap or wet our toothbrushes and too often find ourselves smelling the water before we begin to drink it or use it to brush our teeth. Too frequently, it smells “off” — a musky, fetid odor, sometimes a chemical stench — or it hits our mouth with a shocking, acrid and metallic taste.

What’s going on? Lots.

The water we drink in our homes are increasingly fouled with natural and manmade contaminants. More than 350,000 Californians have unsafe drinking water. Authorities know it’s polluted at levels higher than those permitted by the state or federal governments for contaminants known to cause negative health effects — illness, disability, even death.

While hundreds of thousands of Californians may be drinking bad water, some are worse off- they have none at all. California estimates that 15,000 residents of our state lack running water in their homes; emergency trucks deliver water each week to tanks in their front yards or they’re forced to buy water for drinking, bathing, washing dishes and other necessities of life.

It’s come to this. The very system providing us vital resources for our daily lifestyles is breaking down. We’re facing soaring water bills, emergency rationing and drinking water from bottles we buy at the store. It’s so big a problem that bottled water now outsells soft drinks like cola. Even bottled-water producers receive complaints that they are impacting communities and forests located near their springs and water sources.

Tap water — the water we used to take for granted — comes out of the ground or from reservoirs and waterways contaminated with lead, arsenic, uranium, selenium, hexavalent chromium-6, nitrates and a host of other pollutants.

Some contaminants are natural — lead, mercury and arsenic — and others are in our water because of the activities of man — oil and oil additives, asbestos, pesticides and sewage.

Everyone would love to be able to point a finger and say, “He or she poisoned my water.” While that can be applicable towards some so-called point source polluters already paying for past mistakes, the sad fact is that most pollution has known causes but no one to blame.

When no one is at fault, problems become everyone’s responsibility. All of us must help, and that means everyone must take responsibility and share the costs of fixing the problems.

For example, when the contaminant is oil, tetraethyl lead, MTBE or other industrial solvents, everyone who drives a vehicle shares some of the responsibility, along with those whose cars drip oil onto the street, dust roadsides with asbestos from their brake pads, or smoke tailpipe particulates onto asphalt, where it eventually collects in storm drains and enters our shared water supply.

Similarly, everyone who lives in a city that sends storm water and treated sewage into the oceans when it rains heavily must pay for measures to stop that polluted runoff.

California prides itself on being an environmental example to the world. Now it’s time for our citizens to begin bearing the burden of investing to clean up California’s waters.

Proposition 3, known as the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018, invests $8.87 billion in California water infrastructure, including safe drinking water project, infrastructure repair and improve waste water services.

Contaminated water is everyone’s problem, now you have the opportunity to fix it.

Vote YES on Proposition 3.
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By Jaivon Grant
Special to the Sacramento Observer

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