Congressman Josh Harder Presses for Answers Regarding TCE Water Contamination in Ripon

By on June 6, 2019

Pointing to the recent closure of a local drinking water well and claiming an increase in local childhood cancers, Congressman Josh Harder (D- 10th District-Modesto) has asked both state and regional water boards for answers after residents voiced concerns about the Trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination of the city’s water supply, including potential threats posed by TCE vapor in Ripon. His inquiry refers to the contamination of Ripon’s groundwater dating back to the 1970s, when Nestlé Inc. used the chemical to extract caffeine from coffee and discharged the untreated water into the city’s sewers.

In a recent letter to California Water Resources Control Board Chair Karl E. Longley Representative Harder stated “Everyone deserves access to clean water – it’s really that simple – we just need some more information on the steps the water boards and Nestlé are taking to make sure the families in Ripon are safe. News reports have indicated there will be TCE vapor testing – which is a great step, we’re interested in confirming that and getting some more information on how we can be helpful.”

Nestlé’s own internal investigations determined that TCE was discharged at several locations in the Ripon area. Known discharge of TCE occurred at a former Nestlé facility at 230 Industrial Avenue, the city of Ripon industrial wastewater pond and also near the intersection of Stockton Avenue and Fourth Street. Nestlé stopped using TCE in 1986 and implemented remedial actions to capture and contain TCE.

Rep. Harder’s letter indicates that more than 30 years later, remnants of TCE are impacting Ripon’s quality of life and potentially threatening human health. Rep. Harder claims that despite evidence of TCE in Ripon’s groundwater, there has been no reported soil vapor or indoor air testing for this chemical in over a decade. However, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has confirmed that TCE air contact creates an odorless vapor which has been linked to cancer.

In order to more fully pursue answers regarding TCE contamination in the Ripon area, Rep. Harder has asked the general question of Chairman Longley about what actions the State and Regional Water Boards are taking and when will they will occur? More specifically Rep. Harder has asked for the timeline for remediating TCE in Ripon’s groundwater, why the State or Regional Water Board has not pursued more federal assistance, including resources from the Superfund Program – given the supposed severity of the problem in the Ripon area – and also whether the Water Board(s) will require Nestlé to conduct air vapor testing.