US govt blames homeless for water woes in California

Tents line the street in Skid Row in Los Angeles, California on September 17, 2019 (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)

Washington (AFP) - The Trump administration picked another fight with California Thursday, accusing the liberal state of being lax on water pollution and linking the problem in part to feces from homeless people.

"Based on data and reports, the EPA is concerned that California's implementation of federal environmental laws is failing to meets its obligations required under delegated federal programs," Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wrote in a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom.

The federal government and Democrat-run California are at odds over a growing number of environmental issues.

For instance the administration of President Donald Trump, who regularly scoffs at global warming, wants to take away California's special waiver to set its own stricter auto emissions standards.

California is working to be a pioneer on fighting climate change and go beyond environmental standards set by the federal government.

"The EPA is aware of the growing homelessness crisis developing in major California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the impact of this crisis on the environment," Wheeler said in the letter to Newsom.

"Indeed, press reports indicate that 'piles of human feces' on sidewalks and streets in these cities are becoming all too common," he added.

He said the EPA is worried about the environmental impact of what it said was untreated human waste being washed into the Pacific and San Francisco Bay.

Wheeler threatened federal intervention and gave the state 30 days to respond in writing to his complaints.

The EPA also said drinking water in several cities has been found to have levels of arsenic, lead or radioactive substances above established health limits.

Last week Trump lashed out at big cities in California because of their sizeable homeless populations.

Asked if the Wheeler letter is linked to that criticism, a senior EPA official told reporters in a conference call, "the letter speaks for itself."

"What you have here was multiple programs with multiple problems coming at relatively the same time. And that triggered concerns with the administrator and you see that concern expressed in the letter," this official said.