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County officials say water report needs context

Posted: July 20, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 20, 2011 1:30 a.m.

A study examining water quality throughout Los Angeles County needs more context to identify trends and point legislators in the right direction toward maintaining safe drinking water, county Mayor Michael D. Antonovich said Tuesday.

Antonovich, who ordered the water study done at 775 sites last year, presented the finished report to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and filed a motion asking that figures from a 2001 study be presented to the board in 45 days.

“What we want to know is if there are trends so that we can take some sort of action,” said Fred Leaf, senior health-policy adviser to Antonovich.

“We want to make some comparisons, looking at numbers side-by-side, line-by-line, so that any trends can be quickly identified and plans made for remedial action.”

The water-quality study was carried out by the Environmental Toxicology Laboratory of the Department of Agricultural Commissioner of Weights and Measures.

Researchers informed supervisors that they were pulled away from the study when asked to sample air and monitor radiation following Japan’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and nuclear power station failure in March. Hence the 2001 comparative figures were not available.

Nevertheless, the report shows that a significant number of “small well water facilities” throughout the county, including about 20 sampled in the Santa Clarita Valley, revealed trace amounts of lead, chromium, arsenic and the carcinogenic Chromium +6.

While trace levels of the four substances were detected, none exceeded contamination thresholds set by public health officials.

Water samples taken at wells in the Santa Clarita Valley revealed levels of total chromium greater than 2.5 parts per billion.

California regulations define the maximum contaminant level for total chromium at 50 parts per billion — a more restrictive standard compared to the federal level set by the Environmental Protection Agency at 100 ppb.

None of the 775 samples came close to the maximum allowable level.
Similarly, 15 of the same 20 local wells showed levels of chromium +6 exceeding the same detectable threshold.

And while no maximum contaminant level has been set for the amount of chromium +6 in water, in 1999 state officials classified it a carcinogen.

For arsenic, 17 local wells were found to have levels greater than one part per billion.

The public health threshold for arsenic is set at 10 ppb.

Worrisome for Antonovich aides was the revelation that three wells in Lancaster exhibited unsafe levels of arsenic far above public health threshold.

The only other sample of water countywide showing unsafe levels was water from a well in Lakeview, which contained lead.

Researchers were also able to detect trace amounts of lead in water at one part per billion.

Out of local wells sampled, a dozen of them contained levels of lead that exceeded one part per billion.


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