Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Ag uranium levels rising in N. California; little info being given to non-English speaking residents

Agricultural workers in California's San Joaquin Valley—many of them non-English speakers—are being warned through poorly worded notices short of information that their drinking water could contain dangerous levels of uranium, reports The Associated Press. Giselle Alvarez, 16, one of the few English speaking residents in the area, told AP of the warning signs, "It says you can drink the water—but if you drink the water over a period of time, you can get cancer. They really don't explain." Long-term exposure can damage kidneys and increase cancer risks. (Valley CAN map)

"Uranium, the stuff of nuclear fuel for power plants and atom bombs, increasingly is showing in drinking water systems in major farming regions of the U.S. West—a naturally occurring but unexpected byproduct of irrigation, of drought and of the overpumping of natural underground water reserves," reports AP. The average level of uranium in public-supply wells of the eastern San Joaquin Valley increased 17 percent from 1990 to the mid-2000s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"The number of public-supply wells with unsafe levels of uranium, meantime, climbed from 7 percent to 10 percent over the same period there," reports AP. That means one in four families "on private wells in this farm valley who, unknowingly, are drinking dangerous amounts of uranium, researchers determined this year and last."

The problem has also affected other areas, reports AP. "Nearly 2 million people in California's Central Valley and in the U.S. Midwest live within a half-mile of groundwater containing uranium over the safety standards, University of Nebraska researchers said in a study published in September." (Read more)

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