Early in the new year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on an ordinance requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay for and implement convenient programs for consumers to dispose of unused and out of date medications. This comes on the heels of a 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals decision upholding a similar ordinance adopted by Alameda County in 2012 against an industry attack. Not surprisingly, the industry opposes a new ordinance in San Francisco despite the fact that when companies band together and support proper disposal – like they do in Canada – it costs so little per bottle, they haven’t raised drug prices.
Clean Water Action has released a new report exposing the threats to air and water from oil wastewater disposal into open-air and unlined pits. Across the Central Valley of California, already the home of severe water shortages, degraded groundwater and the worst air quality in the country, Big Oil is dumping wastewater containing a mixture of harmful chemicals, including volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, into unlined and open-air pits. These pits are designed both to percolate the toxic wastewater into the ground and evaporate it into the air. California water and air regulators have allowed this form of waste disposal despite the fact that they are aware that many of these operations have inadequate and severely out of date permits, and that some are creating huge underground plumes of wastewater that threaten nearby drinking and irrigation water.
The 2014 groundwater legislation that Clean Water Action helped pass was a big victory for California! But there’s still work to be done to ensure that California has a sustainable supply of groundwater to support our future water needs.
One major gap is the lack of information about groundwater aquifers. Take action to make information for our groundwater available to the public.
California’s drought has depleted California’s reservoirs. It has also had a huge impact on our precious groundwater basins, causing hundreds of wells to go dry and leaving us more vulnerable to future droughts. In normal years, groundwater represents up to 40% of California’s water supply (that rises to 50% or more in droughts). In this extreme drought, our groundwater levels have been dropping at an unprecedented rate – up to 200 feet in some areas.
Recognizing that overpumping of groundwater puts California in grave danger, the Legislature passed new laws in 2014 that will for the first time require groundwater to be sustainably managed. Clean Water Action fought hard to pass this legislation. It’s a great victory!
Implementing these new laws and putting a halt to the over-pumping and contamination of groundwater will be difficult. One significant obstacle is the secrecy surrounding groundwater data.
We are fortunate to live at a time when medical advances, including the development of antibiotics and other types of drugs, have enhanced and lengthened human life. Unused medications, however, pose some risks to human health and the environment that are not widely recognized. When they get into the wrong hands, unused medications can lead to drug abuse and accidental poisonings. Pharmaceuticals are also ending up in our waterways, including drinking water sources.
That is why Clean Water Action has joined with local government, wastewater professionals, senior citizen advocates, and those concerned with drug abuse to stop unused or out of date drugs from getting into the environment or into the hands of those who will misuse them.
In his inaugural address, Governor Brown promised to continue California's leadership on clean power by mandating that California's energy grid include at least 50 percent renewables by 2030 by expanding programs like rooftop solar, distributed generation, microgrids, and more. Clean Water Action applauds the Governor's leadership on clean energy and implores him to go even further. State Director Miriam Gordon released this statement:
"We are thrilled that Governor Brown has his sights set on reducing climate pollution. The Governor clearly understands that inaction on climate threatens our communities and families and he has charted a good course for the state. We look forward to working with Governor Brown to achieve the goals he has laid out.
You'll never believe what the oil industry is doing with their toxic
wastewater! Across the Central Valley, already the home of California's
most severe water shortages, polluted groundwater, and the worst air
quality in the country, Big Oil is dumping its wastewater into open and
unlined pits. Full of harmful chemicals, like cancer-causing benzene
and crop-killing boron, this wastewater leaches toxic chemicals into
the ground and evaporates volatile organic chemicals into the air.
Crazy right?! Take Action Today!