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Arsenic Also a Problem in California Valley Park Wells

February 21, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Map shows the location of the Coachella Valley in Southern California, home to 600,000 people. Map courtesy of Wikipedia.

In addition to high levels of chromium-6 found across Southern California’s Coachella Valley, residents in east valley also cope with high well-water concentrations of another naturally occurring element: arsenic.

Thousands of residents live in areas that contain hazardous levels of arsenic in their groundwater, a problem that would cost millions to remedy, The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, reported.

In January 2010, Riverside County environmental health officials knew of wells at 19 mobile home and RV parks that had tested positive for dangerous levels of arsenic ranging from 12 to 91 parts per billion, a Desert Sun probe found.

Studies have linked arsenic, a naturally occurring tasteless and odorless element, to risks of cancer when ingested over decades at levels of more than 10 parts per billion, according to state and federal health officials. Children are even more susceptible because of their low body weight.

Federal health officials used to consider any levels of arsenic above 50 parts per billion unsafe. In 2000, they lowered the standard to 10 parts per billion, based on new studies.

Water at many east valley mobile home parks tested unsafe under the tougher standard.

The Desert Sun probe helped usher in a state law, signed later that year, requiring the state health department to create emergency regulations for “point-of-use” filters, so mobile home park operators could better address the problem.

The law, authored by Coachella Democratic Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, authorized the health department to make state safe-drinking water grant funds available to buy the filters.

Widespread contamination also prompted discussion of a longer-term fix — linking as many as 12,000 east valley residents living in areas where high arsenic levels were found to safe water supplies regulated by the Coachella Valley Water District.

Such a project is estimated at $25 million and could be years away.

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