Pour yourself a glass of water from the tap in Kettleman city and you’ll find it’s often yellow and smells of rotten eggs. That would be off-putting enough, but arsenic and benzene levels also make that glass of water unsafe to drink.
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But last week Kettleman City residents got good news. In two years construction will begin on a surface water treatment plant, a project that has been debated, postponed, delayed, and set aside for ten years. Meanwhile, those who can afford it drink bottled water. Yet they are still forced to bathe and cook with polluted water. A dewy-eyed innocent such as myself wonders why the State can’t pick up the cost of bottled water until the new plant is on line. They’ve known the ground water was contaminated for years.
Bottled water is expensive and some families buy it at the cost of doing without something else. Residents cope with pesticide and agricultural runoff, diesel fumes, and polluted air. The water at the school is undrinkable, but the fountains are still there and kids still drink out of the fountains.
Eight-eight per cent of the town’s residents are Latinos.
This David and Goliath wrangle has finally been settled to allow the community to take water from the California Aqueduct. Prior to this The State Department of Public Health insisted that a $3m well was necessary. The Aqueduct flows right by. A 3$m well just doesn’t make sense. This sounds like a story from Central Africa, doesn’t it? Citizens drinking known polluted water and Central Valley officials take years to do something about it? Not immediately but in two years.
Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle and State Senator Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, are working to make it happen. Rubio acknowledges problems lay ahead in the funding, and getting the project built. That’s probable realistic. So many things can happen in two years.
Even though it’s two years and probably longer in the future, it’s a time of elation for Maria Mares-Alatorre, who represents the community’s environmental justice organization, People for Clean Air and Water. Kettleman City community groups have worked hard for this victory: El Pueblo Para El Aire y Agua Limpio/People for Clean Air and Water and Kids Protecting Our Planet, along with Greenaction, California Rural Legal Assistance, and Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.
They’re holding a fundraiser Sunday, June 27 from 5 until 0 p.m. at Kettleman City park. The proceeds will pay to hire trucks to bring clean water to the community. Each truck costs $400. Please donate to keep pressure on officials to make this happen: