Nearly a million residents in Democratic governor Gavin Newsom’s California are reportedly living at serious health risk from a lack of safe drinking water, and even Democrats are blasting the state government for its lassitude in dealing with the problem.

Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden slammed the State Water Resources Control Board for what he viewed as its slowness in addressing the problem, surmising in his audit that over 900,000 Californians had a greater risk of developing cancer and liver and kidney problems because their water systems fell short of water quality standards.

“The State Water Board has funding available to help these failing systems improve the quality of their drinking water,” Tilden wrote. “Nonetheless, the board has generally demonstrated a lack of urgency in providing this critical assistance.”

Tilden asserted that the average amount of time it took for water systems to finish their applications for the funding and for the State Water Board to review them and award funding had “nearly doubled from an average of 17 months in 2017 to 33 months in 2021.”

Citing the Board’s “lack of urgency to provide needed assistance to failing water systems,” Tilden pointed to the massive drought threatening the state, declaring, “As their water quality worsens, or their water dries up altogether, struggling water systems will urgently need funding and solutions from the State Water Board. Any delays will expose even more Californians to unsafe drinking water,” per Rachel Becker and Emily Hoeven of CalMatters.

“More than 370 of the State’s water systems, serving nearly a million Californians, exceed the maximum contaminant levels for substances that are harmful to human health,” the audit stated. “More than 150 of these systems have been failing for at least five years.”

Tilden’s audit showed over two-thirds of the state’s failing water systems languished in poor communities, thus forcing the poorer citizens to “purchase more expensive bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes.”

Tilden cited the Water Board’s “cumbersome” application process as a cause of the delay in fixing the water problem. One respondent to CalMatters called the process “a nightmare,” adding, “no one … can decipher what is required.”

Water Board executive director Eileen Sobeck responded to the audit by claiming since Newsom signed SB 200 in July 2019, “the SAFER program has reduced the population impacted by failing water systems from 1.6 million people to 934,000 — a 40 % reduction in the first three years of a 10-year program.”

But Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado harshly criticized the state, firing:

Earlier this year, I called for the State Water Board to be abolished and revamped, but it is clear that the situation is only getting worse. The State Water Board is an antiquated governing body with no oversight, and it appears incapable of addressing our urgent water situation. We should declare an emergency situation and provide all the funding and resources necessary to urgently address our faulty water systems.

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