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Good afternoon, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Friday, July 17th.
It’s Monica Vaughan writing today.
My first assignment as the water and development reporter at Fresnoland Lab at The Fresno Bee in early June was to look into a boil water notice in the south Tulare County town of Earlimart. All I knew was that residents were told to boil their water before using it to prevent intestinal illness from bacteria.
I found out the town’s water system is failing.
Residents told my coworker Dayana Jiselle and I that they sometimes can’t flush their toilets because the water pressure is too low. The water smells bad. One woman said it gives her children a rash.
Engineers told me an old well broke in late May, causing water outages. The Earlimart Public Utility District turned on a well polluted with TCP to get the water flowing again. Most residents had no idea their tap water was contaminated, so we told them using an infographic circulated in English and Spanish on social media.
If you don’t know what TCP is (I didn’t), you should. It’s a chemical that Dow Chemical Co. added to a fumigant pesticide injected into the ground for 50 years. It’s since been banned because it increases risk of cancer and can cause kidney and liver damage.
TCP doesn’t dissolve over time. It lingers, and it’s in the groundwater that thousands of Central Valley residents rely on for their sole source of drinking water.
The crisis in Earlimart is about more than contamination. It’s about systemic failure to protect basic human rights of an impoverished community. It’s about a small, underfunded district that lacks the technical ability to serve its customers. It’s about historic, racist policies that diverted resources from neighborhoods that are primarily made up of people of color.
We know it’s more than Earlimart. Similar stories can be told of communities throughout rural San Joaquin Valley.
My goal is to shine a light on this shared crisis, raise the voices of impacted residents and hold those responsible to account. Can you help?
What town, community or neighborhood with ongoing water problems should we write about next? Click here to let us know and we’ll investigate.
(What stories are not being told in our coverage right now? Send tips to me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
And now, the week’s top reads:
(For the most recent local coronavirus updates, visit www.fresnobee.com/coronavirus.)
The Developing Across West Fresno Neighborhoods Initiative, called DAWN, was awarded a $1 million contract by the Fresno City Council to work towards reducing health disparities on the city’s west side. Fresno Bee
Clovis offering rental and mortgage assistance to residents impacted by COVID-19. Clovis Roundup
Fresno’s police chief blames the state for the rising crime rate. Fresno Bee
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation order for the areas and residences along the area of Hwy. 198 between Parsons Road and the Monterey County line because of the Mineral Fire. Fresno Bee
Firefighters are still battling a wildfire near Kerckhoff Lake in eastern Madera County. Fresno Bee
Operators of hair salons and barbershops in California are asking Gov. Newsom to let them reopen their stores. Fresno Bee
Fresno City residents have to abide by stricter face covering guidelines. Fresno Bee
Outdoor dining in Fresno is getting really interesting. Fresno Bee
Why COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx people in the Valley. Valley Public Radio
The hidden toll of California’s Black exodus. CalMatters
Congress is close to an agreement that extends some of the $600-a-week federal unemployment insurance subsidy to help American workers hurt by the coronavirus crisis. Los Angeles Times
Black and Latino middle and high school students in Los Angeles are lagging behind others in their participation in the school district’s online learning. Los Angeles Times
As extended unemployment benefits come to an end, tenants and housing advocates worry about a wave of evictions. Los Angeles Times
The promising results of a citywide basic income experiment in Stockton. New Yorker
Bigger, badder storms coming ahead — and California is in their path. San Francisco Chronicle
New study finds that Black business owners had a harder time getting pandemic aid. New York Times
Despite lawsuits over water use in Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, federal and state officials continue to work through their differences. Western Farm Press
Lenders oppose federal effort to weaken housing discrimination rule. Wall Street Journal
OPINION: It’s time to deliver on California’s human right to water. Visalia Times-Delta