CIRS Blog about Rural California

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By Lynn Graebner

Thousands of residents in rural disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley may soon have help avoiding drinking water from domestic wells and small water systems contaminated with dangerous levels of nitrate.

A grass roots pilot project by the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW) is helping rural low-income residents organize their communities so they can apply for grants for drilling new wells or for infrastructure to connect to municipal systems.

“We’re trying to connect people into a regional network,” said Vicente Lara, Central Coast program coordinator for the Coalition. “A lot of people think they’re the only ones experiencing this problem. This is a regional issue.”

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"Her skin became red and itchy. Her eyes burned. Her hair started falling out. Her family had the same symptoms ... [others] were dying, " California Watch reports. This sounds like a tragic nightmare, but it was a reality for Sonia Lopez, a farmworker who lives in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley area.

She and thousands of other farmworkers in this area have been unknowingly drinking nitrate-contaminated water, which has led to these severe symptoms.

These and other farmworkers have been neglected and allowed to suffer on their own. The state government needs to intervene and offer them some relief.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California is responsible for about 15 percent of the United States' fresh produce.

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