View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Toxin in well prompts concerns

Environment: Local groups suggest the general plan update needs to be rethought

Posted: June 14, 2011 3:10 p.m.
Updated: June 14, 2011 3:10 p.m.

Local environmental leaders said Monday that news of a Valencia well closing over contamination concerns raises new and troubling questions about the Santa Clarita Valley's supply of safe drinking water.

The Valencia Water Company announced Friday that one of its wells has been closed since August 2010, when routine tests found perchlorate, a toxic salt that can cause thyroid problems.

Perchlorate is used to manufacture rocket fuel, and munitions company Whittaker Corp. operated a plant on a 998-acre property at the center of the city known as Whittaker-Bermite. Whittaker Corp. is on the hook to pay for cleaning perchlorate out of the soil there and the groundwater below.

Perchlorate has been found in wells near, and in the soil on, the Whittaker-Bermite property.

Leaders of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, Friends of the Santa Clara River and the local chapter of the Sierra Club said in a joint statement Monday that the perchlorate discovery should cause city and water officials to rethink their plans for future growth.

Tonight, the Santa Clarita City Council will consider adopting its first general plan update, dubbed One Valley, One Vision, which will guide everything from roads to housing development for decades.

The plan, along with the county's version for the SCV's unincorporated areas, calls for growth that could mean as many as 483,000 residents across the Santa Clarita Valley, almost double its current population of about 280,000. That growth has already prompted water availability concerns from locals.

Now, Friends of the Santa Clara River say the underground plume of perchlorate is spreading, causing a greater public health problem than originally thought.

"Continued pumping of the Saugus Aquifer could draw the pollution plume even further, resulting in greater pollution of this water source," Friends member Ron Bottorff said in the statement.

"The city must slow down and make sure the health of the community is protected."

The Saugus Aquifer is the deeper of two underground water reservoirs tapped for about 50 percent of the valley's water supply.

City and water officials say the closing of the Valencia well is not a supply problem; it's a curable treatment problem.

"Fortunately, the technology exists, the technology is proven and it is in use in this valley (to purge groundwater of perchlorate)," Valencia Water Co. General Manager Keith Abercrombie said.

Castaic Lake Water Agency General Manager Dan Masnada agreed.

"Every last drop of water we drink in this valley is treated in some form or fashion," said Masnada, who heads the water wholesaler that imports water from Northern California. "If someone is looking for water that doesn't have to be treated for one contaminant or another, they've got to go to the Sierra Nevadas for that."

SCOPE President Lynne Plambeck said the bigger issue is that perchlorate has spread further in the groundwater than expected.

"We're potentially contaminating the whole aquifer," she said.

Abercrombie said the contamination of the Valencia well was anticipated in a lawsuit settlement between Whittaker Corp. and local water retailers and Castaic Lake Water Agency, which buys and sells State Water Project water.

As for the city, officials there have no plans to rethink One Valley, One Vision.

"From everything that we can tell, (the well closure) doesn't really have a significant impact," said Paul Brotzman, the city's community development director. "We don't see any reason to change direction at this point and time."


Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...