Read full article by Janet Wilson (Palm Springs Desert Sun)

“The clock is ticking. Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Wednesday to decide on a bill that would make California the first state in the nation to require water suppliers who monitor a broad class of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ to notify customers if they’re present in drinking water.

‘A decision will come tomorrow,’ a spokesman for Newsom said Tuesday. He declined to say what it would be…

More than 2.4 million people across Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange Counties may be exposed to the dangerous chemicals, according to estimates by public health advocates using U.S. EPA data.

While New Hampshire and New Jersey require water districts to limit two PFAS chemicals and notify customers, California’s law would mandate that consumers receive information about 5,000 of them, if they’re detected.

‘The industrial legacy of pollution in my district alone is frightening,’ said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), author of Assembly Bill 756, which would require the broad notification. ‘We have federal data that outlines how these toxic chemicals have poisoned our public water supplies, but no such monitoring is mandated or in place in California. That must change.’

The bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers of the California legislature, and now needs to either be signed by the governor, vetoed, or, if he takes no action, it will automatically become law.

The Association of California Water Agencies has urged Newsom to veto the bill, saying there isn’t even technology available yet to test for thousands of the chemicals, and that notifying consumers about substances that are in many cases still being studied could undermine their confidence in public water safety. 

‘ACWA is not opposed to notifying the public of drinking water contaminants, however, to mandate that water systems notify customers directly regarding chemicals that have not been thoroughly studied would undermine the public’s trust in their water providers and set a bad precedent,’ Adam Quinonez, ACWA’s director of state legislative relations, wrote to Newsom.

They also objected to being required to notify each customer via mail, email, internet postings and possible additional public forums. Critics dismissed the latter argument, noting the districts mail monthly water bills to customers, and said public notification was a critical first step to raising awareness of the looming problem and pushing for mandatory limits and clean-ups…

Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the city of Adelanto and other communities are among 50 sites, largely in southern California, that have reported the chemicals in water supplies, according to Environmental Working Group (EWG).

‘Along with climate change, the contamination of drinking water supply with these chemicals are going to be the two greatest environmental challenges California faces this century,’ said Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics in Rosamond…

The bill is also a companion to new requirements rolled out by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water last year. Recommended limits were lowered for the chemicals, and three phases of testing will be required: 

  • Phase 1: 31 airports, including LAX and possibly Palm Springs International Airport, plus 573 drinking water wells within a two-mile radius of military bases and other known contaminated sites
  • Phase 2: refineries, terminals, non-airport fire training sites, urban wildfire areas
  • Phase 3: wastewater treatment plants, domestic wells

But while the data must be given to given to authorities, the current regulation only recommends that consumers be notified. 

Williams said even though levels higher than the recommended federal 70 parts per trillion had already been found in numerous locations, including eastern Los Angeles, Anaheim, Sacramento, Corona, Orange and elsewhere, ‘customers never received notification.’

The new law changes that…

States are increasingly passing various laws to address parts of PFAS contamination, such as in food packaging. There are no national mandatory caps on the substances, only recommended levels…

Newly installed U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced last week that he is creating a PFAS task force to study the problem, and an array of environmental and consumer groups are pushing Congress and the US Environmental Protection Agency to address the growing problem…

‘Drinking water should never come out of tap contaminated with non-stick chemicals, and it is heartening that states are taking action while the federal government drags its feet,’ said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. ‘The only way to know if PFAS contaminates water is to test it, and consumers should be notified.'”