Pollution Law Watch

Alarming Contamination in Los Angeles Groundwater

Posted in Arsenic, Contamination, Government, Groundwater

Co-authored by Gregory Zimmer of The Collins Law Firm, P.C.

Recently, the Luskin Center at UCLA released a study that highlighted the dangers of Los Angeles County’s water supply system. The results were staggering.

Approximately 40% of community water providers in Los Angeles County drew water from a groundwater source that was contaminated beyond state-set drinking water standards—known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs)—at one or more points during the span of 2002-2010.1  Areas serviced by such community water providers include but are not limited to: El Monte, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pomona, Santa Clarita, and Santa Monica. Some common contaminants are: Aluminum, Arsenic, Chloroform, Coliform (TCR), Manganese, Radon, and total trihalomethanes (TTHMs).2

Of every county in California, Los Angeles County has the greatest number of community water systems that rely on contaminated groundwater.1 Over a third of the water systems serving Los Angeles County rely entirely on groundwater. Such water systems are more common in small communities in the northern part of the county—an area troubled by local contamination and where there are few alternative sources for water. Small community water systems that serve fewer than 3,300 residents, the majority of which rely solely on groundwater, are found throughout the county—even in urban areas. Such water systems typically lack the technical, managerial, and financial capacity to overcome water treatment challenges and meet quality standards.1 Fortunately, most small systems draw from uncontaminated groundwater.3 However, most large community water systems serving the county partially rely on contaminated groundwater sources.1 While larger systems may have the resources to treat water, the costs to do so are projected to become a significant financial burden in the near future.1

Los Angeles’ groundwater contamination problem has the potential to disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities, low-income households, and the very young and elderly. Disadvantaged communities are populations that have low levels of formal education and experience linguistic isolation, poverty, and high unemployment.4 Individuals from such communities are more susceptible to illness from contaminated water, and may be unable to access adequate medical care.4 Low-income households cannot afford to buy bottled water in the quantities necessary to substitute for their tap water. Children under the age of 10 and seniors older than 75 years of age are especially vulnerable to adverse health effects from exposure to contaminated drinking water.5

We believe you have the right to know what is in your drinking water, especially if the water content violates your own state’s drinking water standard. Therefore:

  1. If you are concerned about what is in your drinking water, contact your local water supplier for a current consumer confidence report
  2. For current EPA drinking water violation reports, visit the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS).
  3. For a water supplier-specific list of chemicals that have been found in the water they supply, visit Environmental Working Group’s National Drinking Water Database.

1 DeShazo, J.R. and Henry McCann. “Los Angeles County Community Water Systems: Atlas and Policy Guide Volume I” UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. March 2015. Page 14

2 Health Alkaline – “Hey Los Angeles, Know What’s In Your Tap Water?”

3 DeShazo, J.R. and Henry McCann. “Los Angeles County Community Water Systems: Atlas and Policy Guide Volume I” UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. March 2015. Page 16

4 DeShazo, J.R. and Henry McCann. “Los Angeles County Community Water Systems: Atlas and Policy Guide Volume I” UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. March 2015. Page 22

5 DeShazo, J.R. and Henry McCann. “Los Angeles County Community Water Systems: Atlas and Policy Guide Volume I” UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. March 2015. Page 26