During a recent test, high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,2,3 trichloropropane, also known as TCP, were found in wells located at two Arvin facilities (Grimmway Farms) in Kern County, California. According to the company, the levels at the facilities exceeded the state maximum level of 5 parts per trillion. This has potentially put around 1,500 employees in danger.1 (The company is bringing in bottled water for employees to drink until the issue is solved.)
Joel Sherman, Grimmway’s vice president of safety and corporate affairs said:
“While the California State Water Resources Control Board does not consider the presence of TCP to be an emergency nor does it require the use of an alternative water supply, we have taken steps to ensure our employees at these facilities have access to unaffected drinking water. We are working closely with the state to resolve this issue in a timely manner.”2
At this time it is unknown if the dangerous, tainted water was used to process carrots or other products at the facilities. And in fact, when Sherman was questioned to that fact he declined to answer saying that at this time the company was treating it only “as a drinking water issue.”3
Dow and Shell Chemical used TCP in their pesticides in the 1970s and 80s (although they have stopped using the compound). But now the compound can be found in groundwater across the state- primarily in land used for agriculture.
(Note to self: Don’t buy any produce from them until they let people know if they are using water tainted with TCP for crops.)
“The wells were tested for TCP in March after state legislation was passed late last year requiring the testing and monitoring of the chemical, which can increase the chances of getting cancer and other illnesses if contaminated water is consumed over a long period of time.”
The water resources control board has jurisdiction over some wells at each of the affected facilities. According to Senior Sanitary Engineer Jesse Dhaliwal, at the Arvin freezer facility:
- one of the wells was found to have TCP levels of 165 parts per trillion (33 times the maximum level allowed by the state)
- a second well recorded 37 parts per trillion ( 7.5 times the allowed amount)
TCP levels are supposed to be tested every quarter and compliance is measured “by taking the total level and dividing it by four” (a violation occurs if any of the quarters have a level above 5 parts per trillion).
Dhaliwal said in the case of the Grimmway Farms facilities, all of the wells in the water board’s jurisdiction are in violation and that while they will receive a compliance order they will have three years to comply. (That’s utter nonsense. The amount of damage that can be done in three years time is staggering.)
However, this isn’t just a Kern County issue; TCP has become a major issue in the state with several cities, organizations, and companies finding high levels of the chemical in their water systems.