Scott Bauer / Bioscience

Marijuana is big business in California. By some estimates pot is actually the state's top cash crop. But with the boom in marijuana cultivation, there is also a significant environmental toll. Mountain tops are being leveled, and streams are being illegally diverted threatening species already stressed by the drought. With the possibility of marijuana legalization looming in 2016, the issue of how to clean up the environmental damage caused by pot production is a big concern. 

New State Office Could Help Poor Valley Communities Get Clean Drinking Water

Mar 25, 2015
Valley Public Radio

The emergency drought relief bill that California lawmakers will begin voting on Wednesday would create a new state office. That might sound fairly mundane. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, supporters say it could help disadvantaged communities.

Clean water advocates will tell you that it can sometimes take decades for small or poor communities to get clean drinking water. Laurel Firestone is with the Community Water Center.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Two senate committees water and the environment held a joint hearing Tuesday in Sacramento focusing on the potential contamination of federally protected aquifers by oil producers. 

The state's Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources had allowed production companies to inject oil field waste water into some aquifers that the EPA says could be used for drinking water. The revelation has resulted in the shutdown of 23 wells, slowing production in Kern County. 

John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s drought isn't just causing wells to go dry, it's also contributing to a long running water pollution problem.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at over 100 private domestic drinking water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. It found that around 1 in 4 had uranium levels above those considered safe by the EPA. Most of the wells were on the east side of the valley, which is home to sediment from the Sierra Nevada which naturally contains uranium.

Fountains For Schools With Limited Water Access

Jan 8, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

More than 100 schools in California's Central Valley will receive water purification stations under a new program designed to give kids fresh water instead of sugary drinks with lunch. Capital Public Radio's Bob Moffitt reports.

The California Endowment created the pilot project called "Agua For All" and has joined with three regional groups in the state to identify schools that need water fountains or water filtration systems. 

Sarah Buck with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation says 120 schools will receive new fountains.

Joe Moore

Last week the US Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a plan that would set a new more stringent rule for the amount of ozone pollution in the air. The proposal is based on new research on the health effects of ozone pollution.   

In fact, the EPA says if adopted, the new rule could prevent as many as 4,300 premature deaths nationwide in the next decade. But it has been met with controversy. Republicans and business groups say the positive health benefits are outweighed by the cost of complying with the new rule, some have gone as far as to call it “nearly impossible.”

Lexey Swall

Last month, the editors of Time Magazine featured an online piece about the community which they say has the worst air in the nation - Bakersfield.

California Department of Public Health


After 6 years, the state of California has approved the expansion of a toxic waste landfill near Kettleman City. The decision will allow the landfill to expand by 50%, or 5 million cubic yards, which owners at Waste Management Incorporated estimate will last about 8 years.

Jim Marxen is a spokesperson for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we talk about a new ranking of environmental health in California that shows many Fresno County neighborhoods rank among the worst in the state, drought on the farm, the Armenian Genocide and Kessab Armenians, plus a look at Fresno's Historic Preservation Week

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

Last week, the state of California released a new interactive online map that lets you look at how environmentally burdened your neighborhood is compared to the rest of the state. The tool, called CalEnviroScreen 2.0 combines both data on pollution sources and the demographics of a community, including poverty, unemployment and linguistic isolation to compute a score that reflects a community’s overall environmental burden.