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EPA Closer to Regulating PFAS in Drinking Water

The EPA has made an initial determination that it will eventually set legal limits for levels of two key PFAS chemicals in drinking water, the agency announced Thursday.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the “preliminary regulatory determination” announced Thursday is the last step before the Environmental Protection Agency proposes limits on the releases of the two chemicals in drinking water and groundwater supplies. That announcement could still be months away.

The chemicals at issue are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), two of many within the class of chemicals called PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Scientists have linked PFAS chemicals—common in nonstick coatings and firefighting foam—to health problems including higher cholesterol, birth defects, and cancer.

Toxic Waste Still a Problem for El Cajon Neighborhoods

From 1963 to 1985, aerospace manufacturing company Senior Aerospace Ketema (formerly Am­etek) in El Cajon dumped thousands of pounds of a chemical degreaser into a shallow redwood-lined pit that sat on its property.

This resulted in a toxic groundwater plume of trichloroethylene, which travels through the soil by a process called soil vapor intrusion into the three large mobile home parks surrounding the facility — Greenfield, Starlight and Villa Cajon — as well as Magnolia Elementary School.

This caused related illnesses among residents and students alike. The air in one mobile home at the school had more than twice the amount that triggered an immediate closure of Magnolia El­ementary in the 2015-16 school year due to health concerns. TCE is known to cause a variety of cancers, cause re­productive harm, damage the immune system, and can cause dizziness, headaches, and confusion.

California County Shuts Down Fifth of Water Wells Over PFAS

California wants to slash the allowable levels in drinking water for two “forever chemical” compounds, immediately prompting agencies supplying water to 2.5 million residents in Orange County to remove a fifth of their wells from service.

The State Water Resources Control board Thursday said it planned to dramatically lower its response levels for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), though actual drinking water standards are still years away.

The response levels require water suppliers to install treatment, and remove wells from service if they exceed the thresholds. Notifying customers is required if districts plan to keep wells in service without treatment for an extended period.

Orange County oversees the area’s groundwater basin and provides water to 19 agencies, which rely on underground supplies for 77% of deliveries. The remainder comes from the Colorado River and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to 19 million people in the region.

New Treatment System to Bring Clean Drinking Water to Rural Community in California

Hillview Water in Raymond, California will begin delivering clean drinking water with the installment of a Microvi MNE nitrate treatment system by Microvi Biotech. Hillview Water serves a rural community that has been plagued with high levels of nitrate contamination for years.

Nitrate is one of the most widespread contaminants in groundwater globally and can have significant human health impacts.

Opinion: 4 Things Arizona Should Learn From California’s Groundwater Regulation Fight

Arizona is debating the next steps it should take to protect limited groundwater, 40 years after the state’s landmark Groundwater Management Act became law. As the arguments take shape, it’s instructive to look west to California, which did not have groundwater legislation in place until 2014. The first round of management plans – which cover the basins with the most critical groundwater issues, mostly in the agriculture-heavy Central Valley – were due Jan. 31. The process has been laden with drama. And it’s anyone’s guess, after years of debate, whether California regulators will sign off on some basins’ plans.

Opinion: California’s Water Department Must Face the Reality of Climate Change and Diverse Needs

As we enter a new decade, California faces increasing environmental challenges caused by climate change, creating an uncertain future for our water resources. We need bold leadership to address these impacts. It is time for California’s Department of Water Resources to implement water policy for the state that shores up our precious waterways and diversifies water supplies in the face of these imminent threats.

Set yourself up for landscaping success by building the best foundation in your soil structure. Photo: walkersalmanac/Pixabay

Take a Test to Determine Your Soil Type

If you put a shovel into the ground in San Diego County, you are likely to encounter the region’s impermeable soil structure. Impermeable soils are defined by poor infiltration areas. This means water doesn’t flow through the soil to replenish groundwater, because the soil is too dense.

Having impermeable soil also means water does not soak evenly into the ground or flow through living soil to plants in a healthy way. No matter where you plan your landscape, you should concentrate on improving your soil structure. That will help you irrigate more efficiently and cost-effectively, and your plants will receive the nutrients and water they need to flourish. It is relatively easy to improve your soil structure, but first you need to determine what kind of soil you have.

Particle size matters

The three basic types of soil are:

Clay: Soil made up of the smallest particles
Silt: Soil made up of a mixture of particle sizes
Sand: Soil made up of the largest particles

In general, sandy soils drain faster than clay soils, because there is more space between the larger particles. Soil structure also influences the quality of the soil. Lifeless, compacted, sandy soil will not absorb water, while healthy clay soil will be more sponge-like, holding and releasing water. The “best” soil – an even blend of sand, silt and clay – is called loam.

Find your soil structure by testing your soil

Some tests can be done onsite to figure out what kind of soil you have. Others might require lab analysis. Certain other conditions require specialized tests, such as soil used for food production or soil receiving a lot of storm water.

You can test your home landscaping soil yourself using a “Jar Test.” This is a fun project to do with kids or as a family.

Use this graphic as an example to compare your jar to. Aim to get the most even distribution, as shown with the loam jar. Image: Water Authority

Use this graphic as an example with which to compare your jar. Try to get the most even distribution, as shown with the loam jar. Image: San Diego County Water Authority

How to do the “Jar Test”

  • Use a one-quart glass container.
  • Add one cup of soil from the garden. You can select one area or take samples from several areas and blend them together.
  • Add three cups of distilled water.
  • Close the jar and shake it until all the soil solids are suspended in water. Put the jar on a shelf and wait 24 hours.
  • If the container is still cloudy, wait another 24 hours. After 48 hours, the soil layers should be settled on the bottom.
  • Measure the layers in proportion to each other, with the total adding up to 100%. Sand will be on the bottom, silt in the middle, and clay on top.
  • Refer to the graphic to determine your soil type, based on the proportions of sand, silt, and clay. Which jar does your home sample look most like?

Now you can work to improve your soil condition, providing the best possible foundation for your landscaping plants and the most efficient irrigation.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Time’s Up on Groundwater Plans: One of the Most Important New California Water Laws in 50 Years Explained

Much of California’s water supply is a hidden asset: Deep below the surface, rocks, gravel and sand store water like a sponge, in an underground zone called an aquifer.

In dry years, this groundwater has been tapped to save farms, keep grass green and provide drinking water to millions of Californians. But over time, people have taken more water out than nature has put back in.

Legislature Plans to Address Groundwater Crisis in Rural Arizona

State legislators plan to tackle widespread problems of groundwater overpumping in rural Arizona this session, proposing bills that would make it easier to limit well-drilling in farming areas where residents have asked for help from the state to safeguard their dwindling water supplies.

At least four bills have been filed or are planned to strengthen groundwater rules and oversight in rural areas where there are no limits on pumping and where water levels have fallen dramatically. More bills are expected to be introduced in the coming days.

Balancing Water Supply for All is 2020 Priority, California Farm Bureau Federation Says

California water policy leaders say balancing the supply of groundwater by implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, and addressing policies related to water supply and water quality, will continue to be priority issues in 2020.