November 24, 2013

EPA Leader Criticizes Government Efforts To Improve Rural Water Infrastructure


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy said Thursday that she was disappointed by the slow progress state, federal and local governments have made in bringing potable drinking water to small towns in the San Joaquin Valley.
"We've got rural communities that don't have clean water and there's no plan on how to get it to them," said in a meeting with Los Angeles Times editors and reporters.
McCarthy's comments follow the federal government's threat this spring to cut off clean drinking water funding because state officials have been sitting on more than $455 million in unspent federal money. The EPA also faulted the state Department of Public Health for a lack of financial accountability with the funds.
Residents and activists in small communities across the state said they were forced to pay for bottled water while remedies to the non-potable water that came out of their pipes were delayed year after year because of red tape.
The state public health agency issued a 16-page plan this summer to improve the distribution of federal money, including a pledge to distribute more than $800 million over the next three fiscal years — four times as much as in the last three.
McCarthy's visit included stops in San Francisco and the Fresno area, where she met with farmers and activists about water and air quality concerns. 
The EPA also announced this week that it has awarded California $174 million in federal funding to invest in water infrastructure projects, including $79 million to the California Department of Public Health for the its Drinking Water State Revolving Fundand $95 million to the California State Water Resources Control Board for its Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
“In the last 26 years, EPA has provided more than $4 billion in funding for California water projects alone,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator of EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Without this investment at the federal level, many communities would not be able to satisfy Californians’ basic needs for clean and safe drinking water.”
Nevertheless, earlier this year, the state's public health agency estimated that 200,000 Californians at any one time are served by a water system that violates state health standards. But some legislators say the number is as high as 2.1 million when communities not served by publicly regulated water systems are counted.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Los Angeles Times

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