California Farmers Irrigate Crops With Chevron's Oil Wastewater in Drought-Stricken Central Valley
When most people think of California, the first images that probably come to mind are the state's sun-soaked beaches, the Hollywood hills and the fog-drenched Golden Gate Bridge. But a new documentary web series, Spotlight California, wants to show viewers the California you don't see on postcards.
The five-part series, hosted by actress and comedian Kiran Deol, is investigating the impact of drought, water and air pollution, and gas price gouging in California.
The goal is to "raise awareness of these issues, give voice to the Californians being directly impacted and create an opportunity for people to join together and to take positive actions in communities across the state," explained NextGen Climate, which is funding the project.
"With this project, I want to shed some light on the powerful players who have tilted the economic tables in their favor, profiting at the expense of our families," Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate, said. "But I also want to highlight stories from people working hard to balance the scales; folks who maintain a positive attitude during tough times, while making a big difference."
The first episode, which aired Jan. 26, took viewers into the heart of the drought, where half the residents of the low-income community of East Porterville in the Central Valley struggle to find fresh water.
The second episode, which aired last week, highlighted another aspect of the drought. It shows how farmers are using treated oil wastewater to irrigate their crops, despite the fact that nobody has tested the wastewater to see if it's safe.
"There are farmers so desperate for water in one particular irrigation district called Cawelo, they're taking some wastewater to irrigate crops from Chevron. It's being used to grow food for people—citrus crops, grapes, pistachios," Tom Frantz told Deol in the episode.
"You grow an orange—it's 90 percent water when it gets to the consumer," Frantz continued. "Where did that water come from? It's the irrigation water. The irrigation water is toxic, even at very tiny amounts. Is there a tiny amount of toxicity now in the fruit? Nobody is testing that yet. And they're salting up their soil by using this water, which means ultimately they'll have to stop growing everything."
Seth Shonkoff of PSE Healthy Energy explained to Deol that “until we have a list of the chemicals that are going into oil and gas wells and in what volumes and what are their toxicities, we’re flying blind.”
In order to find out the health impacts of using recycled oil water on crops, Deol joined water scientist Scott Smith as he covertly tested the water for toxic chemicals at the Cawelo wastewater treatment plant.
"We found oil and these nasty solvents," which can cause "kidney damage, liver damage and cancer," Smith said.
Watch the second episode here:
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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