Hundreds of thousands of Californians exposed to contaminated water

Sacramento, Calif. – 700,000 Californians are currently being exposed to contaminated water at home or at school, according to data from California’s Water Resources Board.

An NBC Bay Area investigation shows the data doesn’t include the nearly 2 million Californians who are currently on private wells, so the number of people exposed could be even higher.

“There’s really serious health impacts from some of these contaminants,” said Laurel Firestone, Executive Director of the Community Water Center. “It can cause cancer [and] in the case of nitrate in very high levels, it can even cause death after a few days of high exposure.”

Firestone said the contaminants can come from toxins leaching into the groundwater. She added, “As the groundwater has become more contaminated, as we’ve started over-pumping our groundwater sources, it’s harder and harder to make sure that the water that people get in their tap is safe.”

Firestone told NBC Bay Area water found in wells and water systems  contains everything from arsenic and uranium, to nitrate from fertilizer and dairy farm waste runoff.

292 different California water systems currently contain levels of contaminants that they violate safe water standards, according to state data.

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