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					News Release: Feb 20, 2013
Contact: Laurel Firestone 559-789-7245
Jennifer Clary 707-483-6352
Maria Herrera 559-859-3326

                 State Water Board recommends ag fertilizer fee
     Advocates praise action to reduce nitrate contamination in state’s drinking water

Clean water advocates praised the California Water Board’s recommendations released today that
identify the critical need for a “secure and stable” source of funding to assist communities
impacted by nitrate contamination. The advocates were more direct, pointing at the Water
Board’s suggestion of a statewide fertilizer fee. “A fertilizer fee will fund efforts to provide safe
drinking water to communities affected now and keep state taxpayers from bearing even more
cleanup costs down the road,” said Laurel Firestone, Co-Executive Director of the Community
Water Center. The recommendations can be viewed here.

A February 4, 2013 State Water Board report ranked nitrate contamination as the most common
manmade contaminant in the state’s community water systems and the top reason for well
closure. And a UC Davis report released last year found that nitrate contamination from fertilizer
runoff on farms has polluted the drinking water for a quarter million people in the state's two
most profitable agricultural regions in the Central Valley and Central Coast. That pollution is
costing taxpayers $20- $36 million per year just in providing safe water to the communities
affected in the Southern San Joaquin and Salinas valleys, the UC Davis report said. Researchers
at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Science estimate the annual cost to taxpayers could be
closer to $100 million statewide.

“The same people who labor tirelessly to make the ag industry profitable are forced to travel
miles to purchase bottled water for their families, and wait years, if not decades, for funding to
mitigate the contamination of their drinking water,” said Jeanette Pantoja, a community worker
for California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., in Salinas. “Communities from San Lucas in the south
to the Struve road residences of Springfield Terrace in the north are starting to ask question and
demand action.”

Monterey County reaps over $3 billion in annual ag income, and in Tulare county in 2011, fruit
and nut commodities alone were valued at over $2 billion. Despite the agricultural wealth, the
costs of unsafe water have been borne for years by small rural community water systems and low-
income families forced to buy bottled water because it’s unsafe to drink from the tap. Nitrate in
drinking water has been linked to Blue Baby syndrome, miscarriage, birth defects, diabetes,
thyroid disease, and cancer.

Unlike pesticides, chemical fertilizers are currently exempt from sales tax. “By creating a fee for
a similar amount we could generate a vital source of revenue for communities to ensure access to
safe and affordable drinking water,” said Jennifer Clary of Clean Water Action.

“The state has known for 40 years that applying too much fertilizer on crops contaminates
drinking water with unsafe levels of nitrates,” said Maria Herrera of Community Water Center, a
non-profit that works with communities like Seville, Monson, and East Orosi without safe
drinking water in the southern San Joaquin Valley. “The problem is getting worse for
communities and taxpayers throughout California. We need action now.”
Among its 15 recommendations, the report also calls for the establishment of nitrate at-risk areas
for more focused regulatory oversight and funding and increased monitoring of private wells.

				
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