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Toxin in Drinking Water to Be Regulated

September 09, 2002|NANCY VOGEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Perchlorate, a hazardous legacy of California's defense industry, must be regulated in drinking water by 2004 under a new law announced Sunday by Gov. Gray Davis.

No state or federal standard now exists for perchlorate, a byproduct of rocket fuel that can cause thyroid problems in humans. The presence of perchlorate has forced the shutdown of wells in the San Gabriel Valley and Rancho Cordova, east of Sacramento, where defense contractors once tested rockets.

Perchlorate is also found in the Colorado River, a major water supply for Southern California.

The governor also announced on Sunday the signing of several other environmental bills, including one that would allow timber companies to someday get credit for preserving old-growth trees as an antidote to global warming.

Work to establish a California standard for perchlorate is well underway. In March, state environmental officials published a draft public health goal of six parts per billion in drinking water. The Department of Health Services in 2000 reported finding perchlorate in 44 public drinking water systems, 23 of them at levels greater than 18 parts per billion.

The bill Davis signed into law, SB 1822 by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford), requires the state to have set a final standard by Jan. 1, 2004. After that date, no water district could legally sell water with perchlorate levels that violate the standard.

Sher said that, with the new law, "California has tried to take its own destiny in its own hands" because a federal standard could be years away.

Davis announced the signing of a second Sher bill, SB 812, which expands a climate change registry established by legislation last year. The voluntary registry allows companies to detail the efforts they've taken since 1990 to reduce emission of carbon dioxide and other gases that have been linked to global warming.

In the future, if regulators clamp controls on greenhouse gas emissions, companies in the registry could get recognition for the cutbacks they've already achieved.

The Sher bill expands the registry to allow timber companies to document the preservation or expansion of old-growth forest. Big, mature trees help offset greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon dioxide.

"This is just bringing into play another element of the equation

Clothes washers built for California homes would have to be just as miserly with water as commercial washing machines by 2007 under AB 1561 by Assemblyman David Kelley (R-Idyllwild), also signed by the governor. The bill requires the state Energy Commission to seek an exemption from the U.S. Department of Energy regulations for clothes washers.

Davis also signed SB 1808 by Sen. Bruce McPherson (R-Santa Cruz), which requires the state Office of Planning and Research to issue a report every year, instead of every four years, on the state's environmental goals and policies.

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