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Glendale Getting Grant for Wells

Environment: The city will receive $750,000 for a plant to treat the local water supply, which is tainted with chromium 6.

November 09, 2001|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The city of Glendale will receive $750,000 from the federal government to build a treatment plant to remove chromium 6 and other toxic heavy metals from local drinking water wells, two California congressional leaders announced Thursday.

Although Glendale officials originally sought $300,000, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) secured twice that amount to clean up the city's water wells, which have been tainted for decades by industrial pollution, mostly from defense manufacturing.

"We made the case that although this is an acute issue in the San Fernando Valley, it's a problem in the state and throughout the country," Schiff said. "If we can develop the treatment technology in Glendale, it will have a national benefit."

Before the plant is built, some of the money will be used to study and determine what kind of technology best removes metals, including chromium 6. The chemical, which is used in paint, chrome plating and other manufacturing processes, has been detected in water systems across the state, including industrial areas of Los Angeles and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

Scientists say the chemical can cause cancer when inhaled as a vapor, but they disagree over safe limits when it is ingested in water.

City Stopped Using Wells in Early '80s

Neither the state nor the federal government sets specific safety standards for chromium 6 in water, but they both set standards for amounts of total chromium. The federal limit is 100 parts per billion. California has a tougher limit of 50 ppb, although the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in 1998 recommended an even stricter limit of 2.5 ppb--or 0.2 ppb of chromium 6--for optimum safety.

Glendale stopped pumping water from the tainted wells in the early 1980s, after toxic solvents were found in the aquifer. After that, the city imported all of its water.

In September 2000, the federal Environmental Protection Agency directed the city to begin using the wells again after first treating the water at a newly built plant, as a way of removing solvents such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene. But city officials said they feared residents would receive unhealthy doses of heavy metals.

After 10 months of debate between Glendale and the EPA, both sides agreed in July to resume using water from long-dormant wells tainted with chromium 6 by mixing it with imported water to dilute concentrations of the heavy metal.

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