Published: March 6, 2019

    Californians with Contaminated Water Outraged by Newsom’s Proposed Tax

    Many Californians have been without clean drinking water for years. Last month Governor Gavin Newsom released a state budget that included a proposal for a new fee on drinking water to fund projects designed to improve systems in the state currently piping contaminated water into homes.

    California counties in the Central Valley are hit hardest by the persistent drought that has ravaged the county. The modest populations and smaller budgets don’t provide adequate funding to treat fragmented, sprawling water supply systems that include a high percentage of wells.

    Many of the communities in this region of the state face chronic arsenic and nitrate contamination that pollutes the drinking water in local wells. Arsenic is a known poison that can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, blindness, and is linked to several forms of cancer. Nitrates have especially deadly health effects on pregnant women and newborn infants and can cause “blue baby syndrome.”

    After proposing his drinking water tax Governor Newsom embarked on a trip to Stanislaus County, whose citizens have had to resort to drinking out of plastic bottles for years due to the unsafe drinking water. During the trip Newsom stated “It’s a disgrace that in a state as wealthy and resourceful as ours that a million-plus people don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water.”

    In a roundtable discussion Governor Newsom heard accounts from frustrated residents who are not able to drink or bathe in the water that comes out of their taps, even though their rates are higher than those in Los Angeles.

    It is important to remember that contaminated water does more than endanger the health of a community. When hundreds of thousands of citizens resort to bottled water it generates an enormous amount of plastic waste. In addition, one-third of bottled water brands violate their own industry’s standards for water quality.

    The proposed tax has many opponents who don’t want customers to bear the burden of the cost when the state is on track to accumulate a $14.8 billion surplus. The state is also on pace to fill reserve accounts with an additional $16 billion.

    While residents with tainted water are desperate for a fix, they also don’t want to be further impoverished in the process. One proposed alternative is creating a “drinking water trust” fund, which would initially be funded with an allocation from the general fund during a surplus year. After having their water rates raised last year residents of the Central Valley do not want a further tax increase.

    It is clear that a resolution to this ongoing contamination problem may not arrive for years — even when funds are allocated infrastructure projects and anything but fast. Families living in rural areas of California should test their water and take the necessary action to eliminate harmful contaminants from their drinking water.

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