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"It was a splendid population - for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home - you never find that sort of people among pioneers - you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day - and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, "Well, that is California all over."

- - - - Mark Twain (Roughing It)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Uranium contaminates water in Central California

Too Many People

  • As a Conservative John Muir Conservationist I see overpopulation destroying the Golden State's natural beauty, health and quality of life. But the politicians from both parties keep paving over the state.

FRESNO --  (Associated Press) -- In a trailer park tucked among irrigated orchards that help make California's San Joaquin Valley the richest farm region in the world, 16-year-old Giselle Alvarez, one of the few English-speakers in the community of farmworkers, puzzles over the notices posted on front doors: There's a danger in their drinking water.
Uranium, the notices warn, tests at a level considered unsafe by federal and state standards. The law requires the park's owners to post the warnings. But they are awkwardly worded and in English, a language few of the park's dozens of Spanish-speaking families can read.

"It says you can drink the water -- but if you drink the water over a period of time, you can get cancer," said Alvarez, whose working-class family has no choice but keep drinking and cooking with the tainted tap water daily, as they have since Alvarez was just learning to walk. "They really don't explain."
Uranium, the stuff of nuclear fuel for power plants and atom bombs, increasingly is showing in drinking water systems in major farming regions of the U.S. West -- a naturally occurring but unexpected byproduct of irrigation, of drought, and of the overpumping of natural underground water reserves.

In this Sept. 14, 2015 photo, Dora Martinez cooks food at her home in a trailer park near
Fresno, Calif. Residents of the trailer park receive notices warning that their well water
contains uranium at a level considered unsafe by federal and state standards.
(AP Photo/John Locher) (John Locher/AP)

An Associated Press investigation in California's central farm valleys -- along with the U.S. Central Plains, among the areas most affected -- found authorities are doing little to inform the public at large of the growing risk.

That includes the one out of four families on private wells in this farm valley who, unknowingly, are drinking dangerous amounts of uranium, researchers determined this year and last. Government authorities say long-term exposure to uranium can damage kidneys and raise cancer risks, and scientists say it can have other harmful effects.
In this swath of farmland, roughly 250 miles long and encompassing major cities, up to one in 10 public water systems have raw drinking water with uranium levels that exceed federal and state safety standards, the U.S. Geological Survey has found.

More broadly, nearly 2 million people in California's Central Valley and in the U.S. Midwest live within a half-mile of groundwater containing uranium over the safety standards, University of Nebraska researchers said in a study published in September.
Everything from state agencies to tiny rural schools are scrambling to deal with hundreds of tainted public wells -- more regulated than private wells under safe-drinking-water laws.
That includes water wells at the Westport Elementary School, where 450 children from rural families study outside the Central California farm hub of Modesto.
At Westport's playground, schoolchildren take a break from tether ball to sip from fountains marked with Spanish and English placards: "SAFE TO DRINK."
Meanwhile, the city of Modesto, with a half-million residents, recently spent more than $500,000 to start blending water from one contaminated well to dilute the uranium to safe levels. The city has retired a half-dozen other wells with excess levels of uranium.

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