Drinking Water Asbestos Contamination

The natural weathering of natural asbestos deposits in the environment causes asbestos to flow from surface waters into your tap water. The concentration of asbestos fibers varies from region to region, however, California drinking water is the most widely contaminated. Chrysotile is the most frequent type of asbestos found in California soils, particularly in the Northern coastal mountains, though there have been cases of tremolite asbestos which pose a more serious hazard. The transportation of chrysotile fibers begins with the weathering of soils during rainfall and erosion. Particles then either settle in or pass through reservoirs, depending on their size. The efficacy of removal of particles during filtration is estimated to be within the range of 80-99.97%, according to a California Institute of Technology study.

Asbsetos attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn consumers of the possible health effects associated with asbestos in drinking water. Those who drink contaminated waters have an increased risk of developing intestinal tumors. The carcinogenic dangers from oral ingestion of asbestos are known and currently being studied. Routine monitoring of drinking water indicate when asbestos levels rise to a hazardous heights; water suppliers must then enact the necessary steps to reduce that level and notify customers no less than 30 days after the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department for information on contaminants of concern in your area.

In 1998, the Sacramento Bee newspaper began a series of articles on potential health risks from naturally occurring asbestos in El Dorado County, California. Government agency and general public concerns about public health resulting from these articles led to the formation of a task force to provide information and advice on asbestos to county officials. These concerns over potential health issues associated with exposure to naturally occurring asbestos led to new regulations and guidance.

Other areas in California where concerns have been raised over potential public exposure to naturall occurring asbestos include the Salinas Valley in Monterey County, where asbestos was discovered in soil samples in 2001, and the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) within the New Idria serpentinite body in San Benito and Fresno counties. The New Idria body contains the largest known chrysotile occurrence in California; chrysotile asbestos was mined there sporadically prior to 1960 and continuously from 1961 to 2002. The CCMA is a popular recreational area for hikers and campers and also contains a popular off-road vehicle recreational area, which is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). On the basis of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study of the area to protect public health and safety, the Hollister BLM Field Office issued a Temporary Closure, effective May 1, 2008, to all forms of entry and public use for approximately 31,000 acres of public lands in the CCMA.

Asbestos occurrences in California range widely in character and size, from thin veins only millimeters in thickness to some of the largest chrysotile deposits known in the world, covering several tens of square miles. Overall, 53 of the 58 California counties contain reported asbestos occurrences, fibrous amphibole occurrences, and (or) ultramafic rock/serpentinite.

Geologists have documented that asbestos deposits form in specific and generally predictable geologic settings. The rocks that host asbestos minerals are consistently magnesium-rich (and often also iron-rich) and have been altered by metamorphic geologic processes. EPA and asbestos attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book’s government listings are a good starting point for local information. If you suspect asbestos contamination in your drinking water, contact an asbestos lung cancer attorney immediately for a free legal consultation.

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