GLENDALE — Construction has begun on a treatment plant designed to bring ground water poisoned by industrial pollution back to acceptable drinking standards, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials announced Wednesday.
In a development that could significantly reduce residents' water bills, the $26-million plant will allow Glendale to again tap into a water source next summer that was lost nearly 20 years ago, officials said.
That was when high levels of chemical compounds commonly used for dry cleaning and aerospace and defense manufacturing were detected in the ground-water supply that went to roughly 800,000 San Fernando Valley residents.
About 40,000 Glendale residents will probably see the treated water flowing from their faucets when the city assumes control of the completed plant sometime next year, city officials said.
"This plant is important to us because it reduces our dependency on imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River," said Don Froelich, water services manager for Glendale.
"We're looking at a reduction of water rates of between 10% to 12%," he said.
Located on Flower Street, near the city's recycling center, the Glendale plant will be able to treat 5,000 gallons of contaminated water a minute, EPA officials said.
It will join two other treatment plants already operating in Burbank and North Hollywood in an ongoing EPA effort to clean water under a 6,680-acre area that is part of a cluster of Superfund sites in the San Fernando Valley.
Superfund sites are areas where the federal government takes over cleanup tasks with money appropriated annually by Congress. Parties found responsible for the waste are required to repay the cleanup costs. The primary water contaminants found by EPA investigators are perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene, both of which are known to cause cancer after extensive exposure.
Used in dry-cleaning and other industrial solvents, the compounds are found in concentrations 1,000 times the federally accepted level for drinking water in some ground-water "plumes" beneath the Valley, said EPA regional administrator Duane James.
EPA officials are holding nearly 60 local companies responsible for the ground-water contamination and for 103 acres of soil pollution. Those businesses range in size from large corporations such as Lockheed-Martin and ITT to an array of small aerospace and metal-processing companies throughout the East Valley.
All are financing roughly $60 million in cleanup costs expected to be incurred by the EPA in setting up the three water treatment plants and taking other Superfund site measures over the next 20 years.
"These [water treatment plants] are not our last projects in the San Fernando Valley," James said. "They are interim remedies for us. Over time, we will be working toward a final remedy."