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.
"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."
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.
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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