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Agency pooh-poohs water warning

• Officials say they're addressing perchlorate issue

Posted: May 8, 2008 3:16 a.m.
Updated: July 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Whether or not the EPA moves to limit the amount of a rocket fuel additive in drinking water won't affect the efforts already under way to remove the cancer-causing chemical from Santa Clarita groundwater, a local water official says.

Responding to news out of Washington that the Environmental Protection Agency is unlikely to take action to rid drinking water of a toxic rocket fuel byproduct, Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, said the ongoing cleanup of the Whittaker-Bermite site speaks for itself.

"The bottom line is that it doesn't have a whole lot of relevance," Masnada said about the EPA announcement. "What is most important is that we have a settlement agreement regarding the cleaning up of perchlorate and we're moving ahead on that."

On Tuesday, Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the Environmental Protection Agency, told a Senate hearing that the EPA is aware that perchlorate is widespread and poses health risks, the Associated Press reported.

But, he said that after years of study, the EPA has yet to determine whether regulating perchlorate in drinking water would do much good.

Democratic senators called the EPA announcement unacceptable. They argued that states and local communities shouldn't have to bear the expense of cleansing their drinking water of perchlorate, which has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states.

Perchlorate is a cancer-causing byproduct produced in the manufacture of jet fuel, quantities of which were discovered in groundwater in parts of the Santa Clarita Valley.

It is particularly widespread in California and the Southwest and prevalent in Santa Clarita on the former Whittaker-Bermite property in the center of the city.

To that end, the local water agency, in cooperation with its four local water retailers and the property owners, has begun a $32 million project to clean up the perchlorate contamination of groundwater emanating from the former munitions site.

As for the cost of the local cleanup, the property owners and their insurance provider are bearing the expense of the cleanup.

As well, City Manager Ken Pulskamp said May 6 that Santa Clarita is looking to allocate $125,000 in the 2008-2009 city budget for the Whittaker-Bermite site.

And, the perchlorate issue is likely to be discussed again Tuesday when the water agency's Government Relations committee meets to review lobbying efforts under way in Sacramento and in Washington.

In March, the committee learned that lobbyists identified "champions" in the effort to elicit necessary funds for local water projects as state Senator Barbara Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who authored the California Perchlorate Contamination Remediation Act, and U.S. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon.

The committee also learned that local lobbyist Scott Wilk, who two years ago served as McKeon's district director, will now "be working with Representative McKeon, his staff, and key staff of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to ensure that once again the agency receives funding for perchlorate contamination."

The Perchlorate Remediation Act calls for $50 million in grants for cleanup and remediation of perchlorate in water sources, including groundwater wells, and gives priority for cleanup grants to California water authorities, such as the Castaic Lake Water Agency, most affected by perchlorate contamination.

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