Sutter County Public Water System Ordered by U.S. EPA to Reduce Arsenic in Drinking Water

By on August 3, 2019

Arsenic in drinking water is a known cancer-causing agent and ubiquitous in nature, appearing worldwide. It is a metalloid element, often a by-product of some agricultural and industrial activities. But having been found in the Sutter County Water Works District’s (SCWWD) system has prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to recently reach a settlement with the water district over arsenic violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“We are pleased this system will make critical investments to secure and serve safe drinking water,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “EPA will ensure all requirements of this agreement will be met for the long-term protection of the community.”

The Northern California SCWWD, located in Robbins – 30 miles north of Sacramento — serves approximately 350 residents, including over 100 households, a school and businesses with 93 connections. The system’s current source of drinking water is groundwater from one primary and one backup well that serves its customers.

The settlement with the EPA will include SCWWD designing and building a new drinking water treatment facility that reduces arsenic in the drinking water. The EPA-SCWWA agreement includes the water district procuring land to drill a new groundwater well. SCWWD is required to provide EPA with quarterly progress reports and participate in quarterly meetings with EPA and the California State Water Resources Control Board on its progress towards compliance.

In the interim SCWWD is required to provide residents with alternative water until the system is in compliance with federal and state drinking water laws. Arsenic can enter drinking water through the ground or as runoff into surface water sources.

In addition to its cancer-causing risk, drinking water containing excess arsenic is linked to skin damage and circulatory problems. The World Health Organization also reports that arsenic in drinking water is linked to skin lesions, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases though these illnesses can take years to develop depending on the exposure level.