California First in the Nation to Mandate Public Notifications on Toxic Water with ‘Forever Chemicals’

Thursday, August 1, 2019

(Sacramento) – Legislation that will require public water systems to notify consumers of the presence of toxic fluorinated chemical compounds was signed yesterday by Governor Gavin Newsom.  The bill, AB 756, introduced by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), would require all public water systems to monitor the class of per and polyfluoroakyl substance (PFAS) chemicals and subsequently inform the public of results.

“This is another step towards environmental justice in communities like mine that have been treated as wastelands,” said Garcia.  “California now leads the nation by requiring reporting to consumers of these ‘forever chemicals’ in our public water systems.  I’m very happy that the Governor see’s communities like mine and is joining my effort to empower them with regulation and information so they can make informed health decisions.”

PFAS chemicals are good at repelling oil and water. That makes them useful in a lot of products including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, water-repellent fabrics and fire-fighting foam. Manufacturers have agreed to stop using two forms of PFAS in the U.S. These chemicals are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they are resistant to breaking down naturally in the environment.

“Given California’s abundance of industrial production, particularly in my district of South East Los Angeles, it’s past time we’re monitoring these substances in our water supplies,” added Garcia. “We’re being poisoned at the tap.  The little, outdated data we do have is alarming.  But we know it’s only the tip of the iceberg and that’s frightening. “

California has the most known detections of toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water sources, at 455 and it’s expected more will be found through this legislation. California is far behind other states, such as New York, Vermont, Minnesota, and New Jersey in investigating water contamination.

The Environmental Working Group compiled a map of contamination location throughout the nation. A cluster of contaminated sites are located within the 58th Assembly District.  While there is some data available, it’s unknown how severe or widespread the contamination exists. In addition, no public health goal or maximum contaminant level for PFAS chemicals has been established.  Interim notification levels have been adopted, however, reporting and notification while recommended, are not required by law until now.

Assembly Bill 756 will require water systems to provide notifications to consumers on the class PFAS that show up in their systems.   The measure will also update and expand notification requirements so that in the event a water system detects levels of PFAS that exceed notification levels, or any other level that may be established in the future, water customers can be notified in an efficient and effective manner thereby streamlining the process. Giving this information to customers is vital so that individuals can make educated decision about if and how they use water

“The industrial legacy of pollution and man-made environmental disasters in my district alone—and disproportionately in other communities of color and low socioeconomic status—is frightening,” said Garcia. “Getting this data is a first step.  Next we need to really understand the scope of the problem and find ways to pay for the clean-up of our water supplies.”

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The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.

CONTACT: Teala Schaff, (916) 319-2058