Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Bill to move drinking water authority advances

The push continues to take away drinking water responsibilities from the California Department of Public Health, which has been under a spotlight from the Legislature and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Bee also has looked closely at the public health agency’s performance in the last two years, reporting that many small towns in the San Joaquin Valley have hit a wall in trying to get funding for water fixes.

The latest example is the southwest Fresno County community of Lanare, which could not get emergency funding to fix a broken water well. The town must now fund its own well repair while using tainted water from an old well.

Assembly Bill 145 would move the responsibilities to the State Water Resources Control Board. Last week, it passed the Senate Committee on Health. It has moved on to Senate Appropriations. No word on when the next vote will be.

The EPA required state health leaders to come up with a plan to dole out $455 million in federal water cleanup money that hasn’t been spent in California.  Public health released a plan last month, but it didn’t help Lanare.

Assemblymember Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, who introduced AB 145, says it’s time to make a change.

“Access to clean, safe drinking water affects 2 million California residents from both rural and urban parts of the state,” he said. “Contaminated water poses a serious health risk, and when underserved communities can’t afford to buy bottled water, they are forced to drink water they know is harming themselves and their families.”

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