The City of Turlock wants to assure residents that the city’s drinking water is completely safe — despite a new State Water Board website stating otherwise.
The State Water Resources Control Board’s new Human Right to Water Portal shows that 700,000 residents throughout California are currently being exposed to contaminated water. According to the portal’s interactive map, nearly 300 public water systems throughout the state are currently out of compliance, one of which is the City of Turlock. While Turlock is pinpointed as having unsafe levels of nitrate in its drinking water supply, Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke said that this information does not portray an accurate representation of the City’s current water system.
“The City of Turlock does not have any water in its distribution system that exceeds state or federal drinking water standards for nitrate,” said Cooke.
Cooke said that the City of Turlock is required to report to the State whenever it finds a contaminant in the public water system that exceeds levels that are deemed safe by the State Water Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. So, when City officials tested a well near North Berkeley Avenue and Alex Way in Turlock two years ago and found an unsafe level of nitrate, they not only shut down the well immediately, but reported the finding to the State Water Board.
“Wells that do not comply with federal or state water quality standards are removed from service to ensure that Turlock’s municipal water supply is always safe to drink,” said Cooke.
Turlock has shut off six wells in the last five years due to contaminants, according to Cooke, who said that two wells were contaminated with nitrate, three wells were contaminated with arsenic and one well was contaminated with dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene. The removal of these six wells has understandably had an adverse impact on the City’s total water supply.
“We are working on rehabilitating some of these wells so that they produce drinking water that meets the federal and state drinking water standards,” said Cooke. “We are finishing up the rehabilitation of one well this month and hope to have two more completed by late spring or early summer.”
Nitrate in drinking water at levels above 10 mg/L present health risks for infants of less than six months of age as they can interfere with the infant’s blood to carry oxygen. Unsafe levels of nitrogen can also affect the ability of blood to carry oxygen in other individuals, such as pregnant women and those with specific enzyme deficiencies. At high concentrations, arsenic is known to cause cancer in humans and is linked to other health effects such as skin damage and circulatory problems.
Cooke said that officials test the 18 active wells throughout the City at least once a week for about 200 different contaminants. He said that the City takes thousands of samples each year.
“We take protecting public health very seriously,” said Cooke.
The State Water Board said that the new Human Right to Water Portal, which was launched on Feb. 14, is a way for the public to find information related to drinking water compliance to ensure that every Californian has access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water.
“This new website will serve as a valuable resource for the general public seeking drinking water compliance data on the state’s regulated water systems,” said Darrin Polhemus, deputy director for the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water. “Here the public will be able to see what types of contamination issues water systems are facing and what they are doing to return to compliance.”
The website provides data on more than 3,000 communities, schools and day care public water systems in California, as well as an interactive map that pinpoints the locations of 292 public water systems that are currently out of compliance with federal standards for contaminants such as nitrate and arsenic. Users can look up their water system to see whether their water system complies with federal drinking water standards.