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Jury Awards Atwater $63 Million In Groundwater Pollution Suit Against Oil Giant Shell

A jury has ordered Shell Oil Company to pay the City of Atwater a total of $63 million in damages in a groundwater pollution suit.

The decision, reached Friday after a four-month trial in Merced County Superior Court, awarded Atwater $53 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages, according to a news release from the city.

The lawsuit stemmed from the highly toxic chemical 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP), which can pose a risk to public health and can contaminate drinking water.

Ornamental Horticulture Groundbreaking Cultivates Career Opportunities

With the turn of 11 gleaming shovels, groundbreaking took place on August 22 for a $16.7 million project to renovate and improve indoor and outdoor classrooms and facilities for Cuyamaca College’s Ornamental Horticulture program. Thousands of students have graduated from the program since its launch in 1980. Many have gone on to careers in landscape design and sustainable landscaping, irrigation technology and turf management. The renovation will allow the program to provide a hands-on training experience reflecting current industry standards. “We are a career technical education discipline and we strive to help students get jobs, so it is very important that we are able to replicate what’s currently used in industry,” said Leah Rottke, program coordinator for the horticulture program.

PFAS Toxins Found In Drinking Water Throughout Southern California

Wells of nearly two dozen Southern California water agencies have reportable levels of PFAS, a chemical family increasingly linked to cancer, liver and kidney damage, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low fertility, low birth weight and ulcerative colitis. Six of those agencies have shut down wells in the past year because of the presence of those chemicals and two more plan closures, an investigation by the Southern California News Group found. The state only this year began ordering testing for the chemicals, and a state law requiring that customers be notified about the presence of those chemicals won’t kick in until next year.

Celebrate National Water Quality Month

As the summer heat scorches Southern California, many residents may be cooling off by enjoying a swim in their backyard or community pool, a run through the sprinklers or a refreshing drink of water. Most people take their easy and uninterrupted access to water for granted without realizing how water agencies here and across the nation work tirelessly to provide their customers with a reliable supply of safe and clean water each and every day. August is National Water Quality Month, which is a good time to stop and think about how communities are provided safe, clean water whenever they need it and how they can help protect local water sources.

Solana Beach Bans Distribution Of Single-Use Plastic Bottles At City Events

Solana Beach, long a San Diego County leader in environmental stewardship, took another swing at pollution this week by expanding its prohibition on single-use plastics to include water and beverage bottles at city facilities and events. The ordinance approved unanimously Wednesday by the City Council also bans the sale or distribution of single-use straws, utensils such as forks and spoons, stirrers, cocktail sticks and toothpicks made of plastic at any store in the city. Single-use food service ware, such as egg cartons and meat trays made from polystyrene foam, will also be off-limits.

Vallecitos Water District Urges Water Restrictions During Pipeline Repair

The Vallecitos Water District is asking its customers to adopt water restrictions next month, when a major water distribution line will be out of service during repairs. “As a result of the shutdown, the water supplied to the District may be limited,” the district stated. The shutdown is scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 9, and will run for about 10 days, but those dates may be adjusted according to the severity of the leak, or hot weather conditions. During that period, the district is asking customers to adopt voluntary restrictions. It also advises them to deep-soak their groves and landscaping by or before Sunday, Sept. 8, in preparation for the shutdown.

New Tool Allows For Faster Water Quality Tests

San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Health announced improvements to its water quality testing program Thursday, just ahead of the busy Labor Day weekend. A new testing tool allows officials to speed up the process of testing water samples for potentially dangerous levels of bacteria. Before implementing the new method at the beginning of the summer, it took up to 96 hours to process test results and alert beachgoers about bacteria levels. Now, the officials have results back within 24 hours. “That gives us the ability to get the information out to the public faster and let people know where it’s safe to swim,” said Lars Seifert, Land and Water Quality Division Chief for the County’s Department of Environmental Health.

State Of California Proposes Plan For Delta Levees

Last week, the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) held a public hearing to review proposed changes to how spending decisions on the maintenance of Delta levees are made, and the plan — known as the Delta Levee Investment Strategy (DLIS) — has drawn criticism from several sources. Among the criticisms leveled at the DLIS is a concern that Delta towns, including Discovery Bay and Rio Vista, were ranked second among the three risk classifications, and heritage towns like Courtland, Hood, Walnut Grove and Locke received the lowest risk classification. Meanwhile, it’s asserted by critics like Deirdre Des Jardins, principal with California Water Research, that islands and tracts related to the export of Delta water via the State Water Project received the highest prioritization.

Mexico Facing ‘Water Zero’

Mexico is one of a growing list of countries deemed most at risk of hitting “Day Zero” when they no longer have enough water to meet citizen needs, according to a new report by global research organization, World Resources Institute (WRI). The nonprofit institute categorized countries into five different levels according to their relative risk of consuming all of their water resources, ranging from “Low Baseline Water Stress” to “Extremely High Baseline Water Stress.” Mexico is one of 44 countries – representing one-third of the world’s population – that fall into the second-highest category, “High Baseline Water Stress,” meaning that the nation consumes between 40 and 80 percent of the water supply available in a year.

Water Harvester Makes It Easy To Drink Water From Thin Air

In a paper appearing this week in ACS Central Science, a journal of the American Chemical Society, UC Berkeley’s Omar Yaghi and his colleagues describe the latest version of their water harvester, which can pull more than five cups of water (1.3 liters) from low-humidity air per day for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of water-absorbing material, a very porous substance called a metal-organic framework, or MOF. That is more than the minimum required to stay alive. During field tests over three days in California’s arid Mojave Desert, the harvester reliably produced 0.7 liters per kilogram of absorber per day — nearly three cups of clean, pure H2O. That’s 10 times better than the previous version of the harvester.