“We’ve known about the issue for decades. The public has been asking for governments to do something about it for a good 10 or 15 years,” Scott Coffin of the state water resources control board said.
The California Water Resources Control Board unanimously greenlit policy guidelines to test water sources for the plastic fragments over a four-year span. The policy was approved this week, and means that up to 30 of California’s major water providers will be mandated to begin testing their water each quarter for two years, starting in the fall of next year.
“There’s no other place in the world — literally in the world — that has standardized methods for how you do this or has a monitoring program to look at drinking water,” Steve Weisberg, executive director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, said. “California is really getting out there and being first.”
Microplastics have been discovered all over the world. The tiny pieces of plastic are found in Antarctica, and human placentas, as well as in rain in North America. They typically end up in water from synthetic clothing that casts off fibers when washed. They also come from plastic being crushed into small bits, and tires that wear down on roads. It’s unknown at what level the plastics are safe for humans, but research has shown they have a negative impact on mammals.
It still hasn’t been finalized which groups will need to start testing their water yet, but they were chosen due to their size and the amount they already treat their water, according to CalMatters.
The new rules are the result of a law adopted in 2018 that said the state board needed to create a standard method to be utilized in microplastics testing for drinking water, and needed to make rules for the water to be tested and results reported for four years.
The plan includes timing for the testing practice. As part of the new rules, water systems will need to include information about microplastics findings in their yearly Consumer Confidence Reports. The testing could cost them between $1,000 to $2,000 per sample.
The agencies have asked the state for help to pay for the testing, saying they “anticipate that the cost of compliance with this regulation would require significant investment.”
“The use of new methods would require a demonstration study and place the burden of cost and efforts to conduct the study onto the public water systems,” the Association of California Water Agencies and California Water Association wrote in a joint letter to the board last year. “The human health effects from microplastics is a statewide issue, and therefore justifies use of state funds to supplement the cost born by public water agencies to participate in this process.”