A recent report sheds light on how more than 55,000 California residents are being served up illegal and unsafe levels of arsenic in their tap water. California was found to be in noncompliance 3 years ago with the law regulating safe amounts of arsenic in water, with residents still being exposed to it.


The highest level of arsenic was found at Valley Teen Ranch in Madera County, a group home for troubled teen boys. In the facility, 50 underage boys were exposed tolevels of arsenic 12 times the legal limit from 2011 to 2015. The Environmental Integrity Project reports that 13 school districts and 58 residential communities across the state are exposed to the contaminated water. Ninety-five water systems contain arsenic at 10 parts per billion, which is above the federal standards. [1]

California has made progress in decreasing levels of arsenic in the water over the past few years, but the necessary improvements aren’t happening everywhere. Wealthier communities can often afford filtration systems that allow their residents to have clean, filtered water in their taps. But this is hardly the case for those who are struggling financially. The report estimates that most of the citizens who have been exposed to high levels of arsenic for over 5 years are African-American, Latino, and/or poor.

Many are complaining that the state is coercing people into drinking contaminated water by not properly notifying them or equipping them with the means to deal with it. Many utilities companies have told people that they do not need to seek an alternate source of water, nor do they need to boil it before consuming. However, private well owners are being warned much more seriously about the contamination. [2]

The state has given well owners the following warning, which severely contrasts what it is telling other residents:

 “If you suspect that your well may have arsenic, you should not use the water until it is tested, and you take appropriate measures to protect yourself and your family from potential chronic health effects if arsenic is present.”

Prolonged exposure to arsenic may not cause any acute issues, but it is linked to bladder, liver and kidney cancer, cardiovascular disease, and can also serve to impair children’s development.


Environmental protection agencies are also concerned that just because people know of the problem, doesn’t mean they are able to do anything about it due to their income levels. The EIP states that the “right to know” does not always translate to the “right to act.”

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.


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