Advocating for Communities Facing Groundwater Contamination
- Iris Stewart-Frey (ESS, EJ&CGI) and Lilah Foster (ESS ‘21,Clare Boothe Luce scholar) together with partners from the California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) were invited to present their research on nitrate groundwater contamination.
They presented at a recent Central Valley-wide CV-SALTS workshop held by the Central Valley Water Board. Nitrates and pesticide contamination of shallow groundwater is widespread in the region and presents a serious risk for human health. Many disadvantaged communities are not connected to public water systems and draw their water from domestic wells tapping contaminated water. The Water Board is currently establishing the regulatory framework for the CV-SALTS program, which, instead of regulating individual nitrate emitters, seeks collaborative approaches from emitters towards nitrate reduction and provisions of safe drinking water for established management zones.
Lilah and Iris have provided research results for the Modesto MZ, a priority 1 area, over two rounds of public comments. Their work has established that nitrate concentrations have a greater seasonal signature than has been previously recognized and that the proposed annual monitoring efforts might be insufficient. They have also analyzed the impact of data availability and parameter choice on nitrate risk maps, and thus demonstrated the need for greater public data availability and transparency in the methods of analysis for all management zones. The input they provided supports advocacy efforts.
In response to the workshop, the Central Valley Water Board committed to monitoring and exploring solutions to the issues raised, including full data transparency, additional reporting requirements, and ensuring co-contaminant testing is provided.