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SOUTH GATE : New Underground Water Reserve

February 07, 1993|DUKE HELFAND

The city is building a 4-million gallon underground reservoir at South Gate Park to store water from four wells that were closed in 1985 because of contamination by the solvent PCE, or perchloroethylene.

Officials said the water, which will be added to the city's supply and used in homes, will be safe for consumption because of a treatment system that will remove virtually all of the contaminant. The project is to be completed by April, 1994.

"We are going to be utilizing our well water to provide a high quality to the residents (and which) fully meets all state and federal guidelines and is safe," said James Biery, director of public works.

Water in the wells exceeds the federally accepted standard for PCE of five parts per billion--with contamination as high as 15 parts per billion--but that will be reduced to a maximum of one part per billion after the water is treated, said Ray Pang, assistant city engineer. The city will provide the state Health Services Department with samples twice each month, he said.

PCE is an industrial solvent used to remove grease and dirt from metal, and is also used in textile processing during the manufacture of clothing and other fabric goods. Exposure to high levels of PCE vapor can result in eye irritation, lightheadedness, confusion and depression of the respiratory system. Large doses can lead to liver or kidney damage, according to toxic studies.

Officials said the reservoir is needed because the city's 6.3-million gallon water reserve--less than one day's supply--is inadequate to respond to emergencies such as earthquakes and fires. Increased supplies will provide extra water pressure throughout the city's water system and help officials respond to the ongoing drought, Biery said.

"A major fire could more than drain all our reservoirs," said City Manager Todd Argow.

With the new reservoir, the city will have slightly more than a one-day reserve. Officials said they plan to construct an additional 5-million gallon reservoir at an undetermined site in the west end of the city within five years, with the goal of establishing a two-day reserve of about 18 million gallons. The city is funding the $5.2-million reservoir project with water revenue bonds issued in 1989.

"We are moving toward self-sufficiency so we don't have to rely on outside water, namely the Metropolitan Water District, that costs twice as much as water from our own wells," Pang said.

In addition to the reservoir, a treatment plant to remove contaminants, a booster pump station and pipelines to distribute the treated water will be constructed at the site, beneath a 140-space parking lot next to Tweedy Elementary School. The lot will be closed to users of the park and an adjoining golf course during construction, but will be restored when work is completed, Pang said.

During a Jan. 28 community forum on the project, some residents who live near the park complained that construction already is creating too much noise and traffic.

"You can plead and plead (with us), but you don't live here," said Leo Quijano, a resident of Pinehurst Avenue across the street from the construction site. "This is a headache. It blocks our free access to our homes. What we get is a lot of grief and . . . a little water."

Officials said that sound walls have been erected between the school and the construction site, and drop-off zones have been created on Pinehurst Avenue to ease traffic for parents picking up and dropping off children, which used to take place in the parking lot.

Officials noted that a 12-member advisory committee--including residents, business people, religious leaders and city officials--meets quarterly and reports on community concerns. In addition, the city has set up a 24-hour bilingual hot line, (213) 586-3521.

Calls will be returned by the city Public Works Department within 48 hours.

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