SOUTH GATE — The City Council has approved a $20-million plan, which will result in higher water bills, to finance a $5.5-million water-treatment plant and other improvements in the city's 60-year-old water system, which has lost 55% of its water supply because of contamination.
The financing package would increase the typical monthly residential water bill from $9.38 to a high of $27.44 by the year 1999, city officials estimate.
The council voted 4-0 Monday to sell city-backed certificates of participation, a municipal financing tool much like bonds, to raise $11 million to build the water treatment plant at South Gate Recreation Park, construct a storage and pumping facility on the city's Westside, and replace rusting pipeline. Revenues from water bills would be used to pay off the certificates.
"A pay-as-you-go method would have taken us five to six years to raise enough to build the treatment plant," said Councilman William H. DeWitt. "We need the project now." Since 1985, six wells have been closed because of chemical contamination.
An estimated $9 million more would be raised over the next 11 years through increased water bills to pay for additional pipeline replacements and other treatment facilities.
The city has one of the area's more serious water pollution problems. Since 1985, six wells have been closed after tests found that an industrial solvent in the water was at a higher level than recommended by the state.
The last well was closed Dec. 19. State officials have stated that even though the chemical is suspected of causing cancer in humans, the exposure had been so brief that it posed very little risk to residents.
State guidelines recommend closing a well or cleaning or mixing its water when the level of tetracholorethylene , a degreasing industrial solvent in all six wells, reaches 4 parts per billion. The levels in the closed wells have ranged from 5.3 to 9 parts per billion.
More details on the treatment plant should be available at the council's Feb. 13 meeting, said Rollie D. Berry, director of public works.
The plan will be built in South Gate Recreation Park, near four of the six contaminated wells. The other two wells, located elsewhere in the city, are expected to receive treatment in the future. The city has tested a number of treatment methods, but has yet to settle on a specific one, Berry said. The city must also set a date for the sale of the certificates.