Lead: It’s not just in Flint, Mich.

originally posted on April 14, 2016


It’s not just in Flint.

That was the finding of a recent investigation by The Desert Sun and USA TODAY, which found that nearly 100 public water systems in California registered high readings of lead in tap water from 2012 to 2015.

Most of the public outcry over the lead issue has stemmed from the crisis in Flint, Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in the city in January after it was found that children with elevated levels of lead in their blood might have doubled from 2013 to 2015 due to exposure to drinking water. President Barack Obama also declared a federal state of emergency in Flint.

While Coachella Valley water district officials say there is no lead issue with water in the desert, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia is seeking to help provide water free from other contaminants, like arsenic, that are present in that which flows into some local homes – especially in the eastern Coachella Valley.

The Coachella Democrat is sponsoring a bill that would direct $10 million from the state’s general fund to pay for drinking water stations in schools facing water access or quality issues. The idea is modeled after the Agua 4 All program that has brought water stations to the eastern Coachella Valley.

In the last two years, the campaign has resulted in the installation of 75 fill-up stations in more than 20 locations in the eastern valley. Garcia sees this effort as a way to get safe water to these areas now.

Legislation by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, has a broader focus. He wants to impose tougher permitting requirements on new public water systems and require these proposed systems to consider joining existing water agencies.

Part of the problem in California is that of the 7,600-plus public water systems in California, nearly two thirds have fewer than 200 service connections. These small systems often have nowhere near the resources to meet ever-stringent water quality standards. Coachella Valley Water District officials have lamented the legal and financial impediments that can prevent connecting small systems with the CVWD network. The Wieckowski bill could help clear those hurdles.

The Safe Drinking Water Plan for California is based on “the right of every human being to have safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitation.” That laudable goal must remain a priority for lawmakers and all stakeholders.

Efforts like those of Garcia and Wieckowski keep California on the path to ensuring all of the state’s residents, including the most vulnerable populations in our own Coachella Valley, have access to healthy water.

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