By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Taking aim at costly EPA rule
Manteca seeks realistic federal arsenic standard
Pipeline is being installed in Union Road to deliver surface treated water to a well head to avoid the cost for a $3 million arsenic treatment plant on that one municipal well. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Manteca plans to make a pitch for up to $4.5 million when San Joaquin County public and private sector leaders visit Washington, D.C., in 2011 as part of the annual One Voice trip.

Manteca taxpayers, though, may come out more money ahead if the city is successful at not getting any money but is able to convince federal lawmakers to provide more realistic standards for everything from naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water to wastewater treatment plant discharges as well as trying to block a move that would exempt internet travel brokers from paying taxes on the full room rate paid by the consumer.

The City Council plans to lobby in support of a provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act to establish a more realistic standard for naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water.

If they are successful, it would save Manteca residents $15 million plus $500,000 in reoccurring annual expenses required from a 2005 federal Environmental Protection Agency mandate that experts contend is overkill. Manteca has already spent over $5 million on expensive arsenic treatment package plants for two wells and more than $1 million to extend surface treated water to well heads at other locations to eliminate the need for an expensive arsenic treatment plant. It still has to address the issue on seven wells that could cost the city as much as $21 million.

Manteca isn’t alone. Numerous other cities that rely on well water must spend money on the expensive treatment process. Most, though, haven’t started due to the expense. The looming deadline - unless standards change - could force water rates in some cities to more than double.

The previous standard was 50 parts of arsenic per billion in terms of volume. The EPA edict reduced the standard to 10 parts per billion. The 12 Manteca wells that are impacted are barely over the new standards.

Arsenic is a semi-metal element that is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices based on a 2009 EPA report.

Arsenic ingested at sufficient concentrations can result in a variety of non-cancer effects including thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, vomiting, numbness in the hands and feet, paralysis and blindness. Carcinogenic effects of ingestion or exposure to arsenic at a sufficient concentration have been documented to include cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate.

Experts say it would take arsenic levels about 100 times higher than the new EPA standard to cause sickness. There has never been a health issue documented involving Manteca water and arsenic-related sickens.

Arsenic occurs naturally in all water but is found in higher concentrations in ground water.

Manteca’s cost compared to most other cities is fairly low due to a city staff decision to recommend mixing surface treated water where possible with well water to dilute arsenic.

The federal funds Manteca is asking for aren’t from earmarks. Instead they are part of reoccurring federal programs although funding is expected to be reduced in many areas when the 2011 Congress convenes.

The city is seeking $250,000 to $500,000 in the form of a grant through the Drug/Gang Intervention and Enforcement Funding program. The money would be used to fund a wide variety of drug and gang prevention programs involving younger people as well as launch a drug and gang intervention model in a bid to get people away from both.

Manteca is seeking $1.5 million in federal funds toward the $10 million cost of replacing 10,000 linear feet of deteriorating sewer trunk line in the central part of the city.

The city is also hoping to secure $2.5 million for additional planning and engineer toward the cost of a third interchange on Highway 99 south of Austin Road. The interchange - which would replace Austin Road - has a $150 million price tag. It would serve all of South Manteca as it develops.