An extensive new study confirms a long-suspected link between crippling birth defects and the nitrate contamination that threatens drinking water for 250,000 people in the San Joaquin Valley.
The study took place in the Midwest, but its findings hit hard in the Valley, where research last year showed farm-related nitrate pollution is extensive and expanding in the underground water of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.
The birth defects involved include spina bifida, cleft palate and missing limbs.
Valley clean-water advocates say the study again raises the profile of safe drinking water as a human right. Bureaucratic and funding delays have slowed fixes for years in many small towns.
"This contamination is so dangerous," said Maria Herrera of the Visalia-based Community Water Center. "Many towns need help with their drinking water, and we're still not seeing enough."