Pesticides in water common

One chemical is left off state's annual report.

The Fresno BeeApril 3, 2012 

For years, Fresno County has been No. 1 on a California list that you won't find at the chamber of commerce -- pesticide detections in water wells. On the latest list, the county had more than one-third of the state's 286 detections.

But the real news is what the state leaves out of this and other annual pesticide reports, advocates for healthy drinking water say.

There is no mention of perhaps the most dangerous and widespread chemical related to pesticides in the San Joaquin Valley.

It is 1,2,3-trichloropropane, or TCP, a toxic leftover from a fumigant used decades ago to kill tiny worms called nematodes.

The contaminant is linked to cancer, and it is found in wells all over the Valley -- where the main source of drinking water is wells. Many cities, including Fresno and Clovis, already are preparing lawsuits against the manufacturers of TCP.

The omission of the chemical in the annual pesticide report is another sign that the state does not take this potent contamination seriously enough, say advocates.

For one thing, the chemical is not yet regulated by the California Department of Public Health, which protects drinking water. The department says it won't be regulated until 2014 or 2015.

But TCP is not even considered a pesticide by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. That is why it is not tracked in the annual pesticide report.

"It's like an afterthought," said lawyer Todd Robins, who represents cities all over the Valley in multimillion-dollar lawsuits over TCP contamination.

The contaminant is a chemical impurity from the fumigant Telone. TCP never was registered as a pesticide, so it would not be tracked as a pesticide, said department spokeswoman Lea Brooks.

Robins' clients include Shafter, Wasco, Delano, Lamont and Bakersfield in lawsuits against manufacturers Dow Chemical Co. and Shell Oil Co., as well as several distributors, such as Wilbur-Ellis Co.

One of Robins' clients, the city of Livingston, last year got a settlement of $13 million in its TCP lawsuit. Other cities, including Clovis, are preparing their cases this year with other legal counsel.

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