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EPA: California is failing to meet water standards amid homeless crisis

By
Darryl Coote
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has warned California that his office will take action if the state doesn't implement its suggests to ensure water quality during its homeless crisis. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has warned California that his office will take action if the state doesn't implement its suggests to ensure water quality during its homeless crisis. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The Trump administration warned the state of California Thursday that it is "failing" to uphold federal water quality standards, leading to "significant public health concerns" in cities with large homeless populations.

In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler charged the state with not "acting with a sense of urgency" to ensure public health from degraded drinking water, warning that the EPA is prepared to "take the necessary steps" to ensure the state is in compliance.

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"California needs to fulfill its obligation to protect its water bodies and, more importantly, public health, and it should take this letter as notice that EPA is going to insist that it meets its environmental obligations," Wheeler said in a statement accompanying the letter. "If California does not step up to its delegated responsibilities, the EPA will be forced to take action."

The letter comes amid tension between Newsom and Trump, who said earlier this week that the EPA would be issuing the California governor a notice over the "tremendous pollution being put into the ocean."

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The EPA also sent the California Air Resource Board a letter Monday threatening to renege on billions of dollars earmarked for highways unless the state withdraws its air quality management plan.

Newsom accused Trump Thursday of "weaponizing our government to attack political opponents."

"This is about retaliation," he said via Twitter. "Nothing more."

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The homeless situation in California was an issue Trump commented on this week, stating needles and other suggested water contaminants are ending up in the ocean off the state's coast.

Wheeler echoed this idea in his letter Thursday, citing reports of "piles of human feces" being all too common on the streets and sidewalks of San Francisco and Los Angeles, causing concern over pathogens in the cities' water.

"California is responsible for implementing appropriate municipal stormwater management and waste treatment requirements as part of its assumed federal program," he said. "The state is failing to properly implement these programs."

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Wheeler said the EPA will help San Francisco become compliant as it previously provided it with a $699 million loan for biosolid digesters and other projects, but it will still need to invest billions to modernize its sewer system.

"I'm sick of this president taking swipes at our city for no reason other than politics," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said. "There are are no needles washing out to the Bay or ocean from our sewer system, and there is no relationship between homelessness and water quality in San Francisco. It's just not a real issue."

Wheeler gave Newsom 30 days to explain in writing how the state will get up to code.

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