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Lack of Funds May Delay Cleanup of Valley Basin

September 30, 1986|LARRY STAMMER | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Monday took another step toward cleaning up one of the largest Superfund sites in the United States--the 120,000-acre San Fernando Valley ground water basin, but warned that the massive project could be delayed unless Congress reauthorizes the Superfund program before adjourning.

"There's no Superfund (clean-up) project until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the money," Duane Georgeson, DWP assistant general manager for water, told a group of environmental, residential and business representatives.

The basin provides water for 575,000 customers, including 15% of the residents of the City of Los Angeles, as well as residents of Burbank, Glendale and La Crescenta. All of the contaminated wells have either been shut down or their water is being diluted with other supplies to bring toxic chemical concentrations within recommended safety standards.

Appointing a Work Group

The DWP has been designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to oversee a $4-million investigation of the extent of ground water contamination in four San Fernando Valley area ground water basins.

On Monday, the DWP met with representatives of business, industry, environmental and citizens groups to seek advice on how to appoint a broad-based community work group that will offer advice to the DWP throughout the massive cleanup project, which is expected to take years to complete.

After a meeting at DWP headquarters in Los Angeles, the representatives proposed a work group made up of six representatives each from elected officials and residents, and five representatives each from business and industry and public-interest organizations.

Each of the groups will have until mid-November to choose individuals to represent them on the work group.

'No Assurance'

But Georgeson said Monday there would be no need for the group to meet unless Congress reauthorizes the $8.5-billion Superfund program before its scheduled adjournment Friday.

"We have no assurance at all that we will get the money," he added. Georgeson also said that the department was "reluctant" to sign a separate $2.5-million contract to build an aeration tower in North Hollywood that would reduce levels of the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) from water pumped from wells. TCE is a clear colorless liquid used mainly as a degreasing solvent in metal industries and is a suspected carcinogen.

While House and Senate leaders have said that the Superfund bill must be voted on before adjournment, there is concern on Capitol Hill that the measure might not be ready for a vote or that President Reagan will veto it because of objections to a tax to raise the funds.

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