Uranium Contamination of California Central Valley Drinking Water

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Posted by Neno Duplan

There’s a danger in their drinking water in the California Central Valley. Associated Press reported that uranium is increasingly showing in drinking water systems in major farming regions of the U.S. West — a naturally occurring but unexpected byproduct of irrigation, of drought, and of the over pumping of natural aquifers.

Researchers determined that one out of four families on private wells in the California’s San Joaquin Valley, the richest farm region in the world, are unknowingly drinking dangerous amounts of uranium. For example, in the city of Westport, before treatment, water tests up to four times state and federal limits.

Government authorities say long-term exposure to uranium can damage kidneys and raise cancer risks, and scientists say it can have other harmful effects.

In this swath of farmland, roughly 250 miles long and encompassing major cities, up to one in 10 public water systems have raw drinking water with uranium levels that exceed federal and state safety standards, the U.S. Geological Survey has found.

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.


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