More residents with polluted wells get free bottled water

More free bottled water will enter parts of Stanislaus and Merced counties with contaminated residential wells.

The Valley Water Collaborative expanded a nitrate project that began last May. Eleven other pollutants were added thanks to a $5.5 million grant from the State Water Control Board.

The program applies to rural residents whose private drinking water has been contaminated by past practices on farms and other sites. It does not apply to customers of public water systems, which can deal with these substances or retire problem wells.

The expansion could benefit users of about 4,000 wells, the group’s executive director, Parry Klassen, said at a news conference on Thursday.

The plan covers the Modesto and Turlock groundwater sub-basins. It is bounded by the Stanislaus River to the north, the San Joaquin River to the west, the Merced River to the south, and the Rough Map of Olemy County Line to the east.

The expansion is for “economically disadvantaged communities” where the median income does not exceed 80% of the statewide level. Much of Stanislaus and Merced counties are classified this way. Both renters and homeowners can apply for free water.

About 200 households have been infected with it due to too much nitrate. Among them is Cam Brinkman, who lives near Crows Landing Road near Ceres. She signed two houses on her property with a total of five residents.

“I spend anywhere from $300 to $400 a month on the water (at the store),” Brinkman said Friday. “…I highly recommend this program to those who are on their own private well. people in.”

Brinkman serves as Director of Career Navigation and Workforce Readiness at Paterson High School.

The process starts with a free well test

Residents can apply online to test their well water for free. If healthy standards are exceeded, they have the option of regularly delivering water bottles or installing a home disposal system. The process usually takes three to four weeks.

Contaminants just added to the program include the basic elements arsenic, copper, lead, chromium and uranium. They occur naturally, but high concentrations can make people sick.

The program also covers two measures of microorganisms in water – E. coli and total coliforms. It includes four pesticide-related substances – DBCP, dibromoethane, perchlorate and 1,2,3-TCP.

The collaborating agency already plans to spend about $1 million a year on nitrate projects and will continue to do so even if it receives a grant. The organization is funded by farmers, food processors, municipal wastewater systems and other parties that process nitrates under state licenses.

Nitrates have accumulated as a result of past processing of cow manure, synthetic fertilizers and other materials. Farmers also spray pesticides, which are more tightly controlled than they were decades ago.

The collaborative committee includes Paul Huckaba, who oversees environmental affairs for Bronco Wine Co., a major producer near Ceres. He attended a news conference at the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center.

“It does give us more tools to make sure people in the region have clean, safe drinking water,” he said.

‘The human right to water’

Co-op leaders say bottled water will be a temporary measure, while they will seek a permanent solution in the coming years. They may involve connecting to nearby public systems or drilling new wells away from contaminated aquifers.

The group plans to seek additional funding. California has spent part of its huge budget surplus on drinking water. So did the federal infrastructure package approved in November.

The cooperative also works to improve agricultural practices, such as applying pesticides and fertilizers only when and where they are needed.

Also at the news conference were Laurel Firestone, a member of five state water boards. She is an attorney and co-founded Community Water Center, a nonprofit advocating for Central Valley and Central Coast residents.

“This brings us one step closer to ensuring that we realize our human right to water in California,” Firestone said.

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John Holland covers agriculture, transportation and general mission news. He has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000 and has previously worked for newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. Born and raised in San Francisco, he holds a degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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