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Reporting on groundwater contamination in rural Salinas Valley communities

Reporting on groundwater contamination in rural Salinas Valley communities

Picture of Sara  Rubin

I'm honored to be participating in the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship in LA later this month. My fellowship proposal is a deeper look at groundwater contamination, with arsenic and nitrates identified as the two worst offenders.

I've covered contentious regulatory and scientific issues around nitrates, but I'm looking forward to pursuing the health aspects further. While there's disagreement about whether to attribute high levels of nitrates in the Salinas Valley to decades-old farming practices or current farming practices, the largely untold story is about rural farmworker communities that rely on contaminated drinking water supplies. 

A recent state-mandated study found that cleaning up nitrate-contaminated drinking water could cost up to $30 million. It's not clear where that kind of money could come from, especially for cash-strapped rural communities. I'll look at a proposal to change how financing works through the state Department of Public Health's Drinking Water Program.  

While the courts begin sorting out new highly politicized nitrate regulations for Central Coast farms, I hope to shed more light on the real implications of groundwater contamination by reporting on farmworkers who live in areas with impaired water supplies. 


Picture of Michelle Levander

Hi Sara:

We look forward to your project on these important topics. Here are some other resources on ROH on related topics: A Story on Parkinson's Alley in and a story that prompted an EPA investigation in Washington on Well contamination:

I look forward to having your stories serve as a model to others too!

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Our California Impact Fund offers mentorship and support to reporters who think big and want to make a difference in their communities through investigative or explanatory reporting on promising approaches to chronic ills. 


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