Mandate will remove impurities from water wells

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 15, 2000

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday ordered staff to come up with a plan to remove chromium 6 and other impurities from dozens of water wells. 

In a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors gave the Department of Public Works 30 days to report on mitigation plans and on the effects of limiting or discontinuing the use of the tainted wells. 

Recent testing of 44 county wells supplying drinking water showed levels of chromium 6 up to 88 times the suggested state limit. The tests were ordered after high levels of the suspected carcinogen were found in tap water at 110 county government facilities 

“It is vital that the public is informed on the impurities in their tap water and that agencies responsible for our water have purification programs in place,” Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who authorized the motion, said in a statement announcing the vote. 

Chromium 6 was made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich.” The state has no specific health standard for chromium 6. 

Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation last month that gives the state Department of Health Services until January 2002 to determine the threat of chromium 6 throughout the state and to issue a report to the governor and Legislature. 

On Monday, state water regulators meeting in Glendale released a list of 142 places in and near the San Fernando Valley that may be sources of chromium 6 contamination. 

They include metal plating firms, aircraft parts manufacturers, jewelry, chrome-plating and etching companies. NBC Studios in Burbank and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center also are on the list. 

Some properties were included because, in the past, they had been investigated for other forms of pollution. 

Site owners were sent a letter on Nov. 8 by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board, asking for voluntary information on how they use and dispose of the carcinogen. Another 80 to 100 companies are expected to receive the surveys later. 

The idea is to pinpoint the sources of contamination so that polluters can be ordered to clean it up. 

“It’s the first step of the process,” said H. David Hahai, board chairman. 

Next year, staff will review the surveys and determine which property owners and companies may be told to test their soil and groundwater for chromium 6, said Dennis Dickerson, the board’s executive director. 

Meanwhile, chromium 6 has been found in water found under the Mojave Desert that is being considered as a future storage space for Southern California’s drinking water. 

The level in water from the aquifer on the eastern edge of San Bernardino County is lower than the level now considered dangerous by state authorities but higher than a revised standard under consideration. 

The Metropolitan Water District, which serves six Southern California counties, wants to dig wells on desert land owned by Santa Monica-based Cadiz Inc. Surplus water from the Colorado River would be stored in the aquifer during wet years and water would be withdrawn in dry years.