MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. -

Thousands of Californians have drinking water systems with illegal levels of arsenic. That’s what an environmental watchdog group said in a new report. The report finds drinking water is contaminated for those living in two areas in Monterey County. According to the Environmental Integrity Project 55,000 people across the state have water systems with arsenic, including residents in Salinas, and Prunedale.  "We do need to be conscious and I tell the kids not to drink the water if they're in the bathtub,” said Prunedale resident, Mindy Young.

Young and her neighbors know the water coming from the Prunedale community well is contaminated with arsenic.

"We get calls every once and awhile that make sure you're using bottle waters. We buy bottle water and then we have a filtration system. On our house as well as what they have with the community water,” said Young.

The report by the EIP shows statewide, 95 public water systems serving more than 55,000 people provide drinking water with levels of arsenic, above the federal standard.

"Small rural communities don't have the tax base to build water filtration plants,” said EIP director of communications, Tom Pelton.

Public health experts said drinking water with arsenic is a lot like smoking, over time you can develop cancer.

“When you smoke a cigarette you're not going to drop dead immediately from one cigarette but the longer you smoke the bigger you're cancer risk,” said Pelton.

The EPA’s allowable level of arsenic is 10 parts per billion, but the average levels in Prunedale have been 35.7 ppb, and 72.5 ppb in Corral De Tierra Estates. If you want to filter out the arsenic it’s not cheap.

"You have to deal with the arsenic waste and the cost of hauling the arsenic waste and if you concentrate it enough it may be considered a hazardous material,” said Monterey County Health, Cheryl Sandoval.

“With all different technologies things are going to get better and we'll have to get a new system for our little community. And that may be expensive but it's going to help keep us safe,” said Young.

 KION reached out to three companies included in the report, but did not receive a call back.

To check if your area has levels of arsenic in its drinking water visit:

http://www.environmentalintegrity.org