Porterville’s, South Indiana Street (was an island), “populated by potholes and alligator-striped concrete” has only recently been annexed into the City of Porterville. However, the City doesn’t have the funding to complete this road project despite Mayor Hamilton’s statement that it is a “really bad street. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a good 8.”32
4. Water Potability / Access to Drinking Water Water access and potability are areas that have the most data in the San Joaquin Valley – whether due to pesticide runoff, proximity to dairies and nitrate contamination, or simple fact that most of the residential water is supplied through groundwater. The water issue has been the most extensively studied, due in large part to non-profit water activists’ concern about drinking water (See Community Water Center, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water), agribusiness/farmers’ water concerns (See Great Valley Center, California Farm Water Coalition), and more broadly, droughts and global warming. Thus, we will not try to replicate their work, but rather give a snippet of the picture.
Laurel Firestone and Susana De Anda began the Community Water Center in 2004 as an outgrowth of work begun by the Rural Poverty Water Project at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE).33 In Tulare County, various unincorporated communities, like Cutler-Orosi, Tonyville, and Alpaugh) deal with toxic levels of nitrates, arsenic, and spill-over sewage in their residential water. This is due to the fact that over 90% of the communities in the Central Valley rely on groundwater for drinking water and 73% of the nitrate drinking water violations in the state are in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, which is also home to the same percentage of the state’s dairy cows.34 “Nitrates can come from fertilizers, septic systems and animals, and can occur naturally” and they all exist in the unincorporated areas in Tulare.35 The groundwater in some of these communities is unsafe to drink and “residents drive 30 to 50 miles each week just to buy bottled water, effectively doubling the price for this basic need.”36 This is not unique to Tulare; in Fresno County, an ordinance dealing with the proximity of dairies to cities and unincorporated areas has raised public health concerns about the inadequacy of buffer zones.37 And, although non-profit organizations like Self Help Enterprises38 do important advocacy work and help update and replace water infrastructure components, the systemic issues remain deeply rooted.
5. Sewage Many communities in unincorporated California have private septic tanks instead of connections to sewer lines.39 When septic tanks overflow, due to poorly maintained structures, high levels of rain, etc. the overflow of waste invades homes, streets and neighborhoods with health hazardous, foul smelling matter.40 Although the court did not agree that there was evidence of discrimination in Committee