In an effort to give the county more control over what goes into its water supply, the Board of Supervisors will consider drafting an ordinance to bar the discharge of contaminated water into the underground water basin.
Ralph B. Clark, the supervisor who put the proposal on the agenda for next week's meeting, said his action was prompted by problems that came to light with the controversy over disposal of contaminated water from the Stringfellow hazardous waste dump in Riverside County.
The original plan called for water taken from Stringfellow to be treated to remove pollutants and then to be put into the main Santa Ana River sewage line, joining other industrial wastes. It was then to go to another treatment plant in Fountain Valley and a small part would eventually be injected into the underground water supply.
But the joint board of the Orange County Sanitation Districts modified the plan to have the water treated at a plant in Huntington Beach rather than Fountain Valley and then pumped out to sea.
Clark said he proposed the new ordinance to give the county power to act against polluters of county water rather than depend on state or regional agencies in any future case. If Clark's proposal is adopted, the supervisors would order the drafting of an ordinance within 30 days.
"While the immediate threat of the Stringfellow wastes has momentarily subsided, the larger issue of ground water contamination still remains," Clark said.
'More Severe Threat' Possible
The Stringfellow issue could return, "or an even more severe threat to Orange County's water supply may emerge," Clark said, so he is urging the Board of Supervisors "to take formal steps to outlaw this kind of activity."
The county health officer, L. Rex Ehling, said one advantage of the ordinance would be to let the county take direct action in unincorporated areas in the event of a problem, rather than wait for state action.
If cities adopt the same ordinance, the county could work directly with them to establish some control over the water district in protecting the ground water supply, Ehling said.
Steve Malone, an aide to Clark, said the ordinance would provide the county with "some local tools" to use in the event of conflicts with different agencies. He said that in the discussion over disposing of the waste from Stringfellow, "We found ourselves totally having to rely on persuasion."
Environmental investigators have labled Stringfellow one of the most dangerous hazardous waste dumps in the country. State and federal agencies are working together to try to stop the spread of toxic chemicals from the site through a multimillion-dollar cleanup operation.