Increased monitoring finds more water pollution in California

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The latest review of water pollution data in California shows substantial jumps in toxic and pesticide contamination, the number of dirty beaches and tainted fish. But federal regulators attribute the rise to improved monitoring and data collection by the state rather than a tide of new pollution.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, states are required to monitor water quality and periodically submit the results to the Environmental Protection Agency. California’s 2010 list, which the EPA finalized Tuesday, shows a number of dramatic increases compared with the 2006 list.

--Waters with toxic pollution increased 170%.

--Locations in which bacteria levels were unsafe for swimmers climbed 90%.

--Waters fouled by trash jumped 76%.

--The number of waterways tainted by pesticides increased 36%.


--The number of waters inhabited by fish unsafe to eat was 24% higher. Mercury contamination was up the most.

Although many of the more remote streams, rivers and coastline lack monitoring data, EPA Water Division Director Alexis Strauss said “California has done a a superb job’ of assembling pollution information. The state used 22,000 data sets to compile the new tally, seven times the number reviewed for the previous listing.

More than 1,000 waterways are deemed ‘impaired’ by pollution of one kind or another. “To me it was fairly shocking,” EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld said of the new figures. ‘That really does speak to the enormity of the problem in front of us.’


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--Bettina Boxall