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New drinking water regulation costly for Turlock
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A new drinking water regulation from the State Water Resources Control Board will mean millions of dollars in new equipment and maintenance for Turlock’s well system.

The State Water Board adopted a regulation on July 18 that creates a maximum allowable level of 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP) — an industrial solvent that has been found as an impurity in soil fumigants and persists in groundwater. In 2013, the California Environmental Protection Agency designated TCP as a human carcinogen. 

“Farmers didn’t know they were putting this on their land, they complied with all applications of their soil fumigants,” said Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke during a presentation about the new regulation to the Turlock City Council on Tuesday.

It’s mainly a San Joaquin Valley program, said Cooke, and early indications show that almost 30 percent of Turlock wells have detections of TCP.

The new TCP regulations will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018. Starting with the new year, the City of Turlock will have to perform quarterly monitoring, public notification if the contaminant is found, install wellhead treatment and implement water system chlorination.

Cooke estimates the capital cost of the well treatment will be $3 to 5 million, not including annual operations and maintenance expenses.

“We were looking for a two-year implementation timeline, feeling that’s the time we need to engineer, go out to bid, get these things in. We thought two years was realistic, the State said no, we’ll give you six months,” said Cooke.

The City will have to declare an emergency to bypass its normal bid process and get everything installed by the State-mandated timeline, said Cooke.

He also apprised the Council of possible cost recovery for the well treatment as there are lawsuits against Shell and Dow for not properly disposing of TCP — a byproduct in Dow's Telone and Shell's D-D pesticide — as a hazardous waste.

Currently, there is no federal maximum level for 1,2,3-TCP in drinking water. Over the past several years, the California Division of Drinking Water received input from affected water systems, local community groups and environmental justice groups expressing concerns about the need for a drinking water standard for 1,2,3-TCP. The State Water Board set the development of a maximum level for 1,2,3-TCP as one of its highest priorities.