Drinking Water Hazards in Monterey County, CA

"The top 3 contaminants in drinking water in Monterey County are nitrates, arsenic, and bacteria.” – Cheryl Sandoval, Director of the Dept. of Environmental Health, Monterey County Oct 2015.

A Multimedia Project by Corinne Smith

One solution to arsenic contamination is filtration. SimpleWater, a start-up based in the Bay Area, developed the ArsenicVolt which is a low-cost arsenic filtration system for small community water systems. The system will be piloted for the first time in California in the Central Valley starting in 2016.


Nitrate contamination comes from agricultural run-off. Nitrogen fertilizers are heavily applied to fields to produce ripe, market-ready crops year round.


Arsenic is mostly naturally-occuring around Monterey County, specifically known to be located along Highway 68. It can also leach as a by-product of mining and other industrial activities.

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform bacteria - including total coliform, fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria - can be caused by improperly treated or maintained sewage systems or well equipment.

*Currently there are no research studies being conducted to track and understand the extent of these contaminants and their impact on public health in Monterey County.

Corinne Smith is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Monterey and Oakland, CA. In May 2015 she graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, with a master's degree in International Policy and Development with a focus on land and water rights, conflict resolution, and sustainable development. She is currently working on a long-form radio piece on how communities are protecting water quality in the Salinas Valley, how agricultural run-off is regulated, and solutions for the future of sustainable agriculture. Contact at corinnesmith115@gmail.com