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Well dug in road in Valencia

Posted: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Alberto Vega of National Exploration, Wells & Pumps works to drill a monitoring well on Auto Center Drive near Creekside Road in Valencia on Wednesday.

 

Looking out of place on a city street, the drilling rig operating on the shoulder of Auto Center Drive in Santa Clarita is not drilling for oil, but for water.

The Army Corps of Engineers is drilling a well near Mimi’s Cafe in Valencia as part of an ongoing effort to monitor water samples downstream from the Whittaker-Bermite property, said Jim Leserman, senior engineer and project manager of the perchlorate project for Castaic Lake Water Agency, which has been monitoring levels of the chemical in wells for years.

The new well being dug on Auto Center Drive is the result of perchlorate being detected in groundwater downstream from the Whittaker-Bermite property.

From 1934 to 1987, the Whittaker-Bermite Corp. manufactured, stored and tested explosives on 996 acres of what is now land sitting midway among the communities of Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country and Newhall and accessed off Soledad Canyon Road.

Perchlorate, an inorganic chemical used in explosives, contaminated the soil first, and then gradually seeped into the underground water.

Water companies concerned about the groundwater contamination have tested for the chemical, which some say is creeping westward.

Groundwater supplies about 50 percent of the water consumed in the Santa Clarita Valley, Leserman said.

Perchlorate has been shown to interfere with intake of iodide by the thyroid gland, reducing production of thyroid hormones, which can lead to adverse affects associated with inadequate hormone levels.

The substance was found in a Valencia Water Co, well near Santa Clarita City Hall in 2010.

The new well is being installed to take samples and measure the extent of the contamination, Leserman said.

Samples and water-level measurements will be taken from three different depths, down to 1,300 feet, to measure the concentrations of perchlorate, if any, and to help determine the extent of the plume, he said.

“The CLWA will monitor those wells on a periodic basis,” Leserman said. “Water samples will be taken to the laboratory to determine what is in the water at that location.”

The monitoring well will also help Castaic Lake Water Agency scientists and engineers determine how effective two of the agency’s wells in Saugus are at containing the underground spread of perchlorate, he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is involved because the agency won funding from Congress. Leserman said the water agency’s intent and hope is to add more wells, and it is seeking more grants from California.

Drilling will continue through most of this week and is expected to be completed just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

jadkins@the-signal.com

661-287-5599

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