SCV Water fined for Santa Clara River pollution violations

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SCV Water Agency logo. Courtesy

SCV Water is in the process of paying $192,000 in state-imposed fines for having polluted the Santa Clara River while repairing a well plagued with perchlorate-tainted water.

For up to a decade, more than half a dozen drinking water wells in the Santa Clarita Valley have gone unused because they are contaminated with perchlorate, a potentially harmful chemical improperly disposed of by at least one local manufacturing site, on the Whittaker-Bermite property.

One of the first wells to be shut down was Well 201, owned and operated by the Valencia Water Co.

Just over two years ago, Well 201 and at least half a dozen wells were completely or partly taken out of use due to perchlorate contamination in groundwater.

In February 2016, it was announced by water officials that repairs to Well 201 were imminent to address the spread of a perchlorate plume deep underground.

Workers repairing the well last year, however, encountered some problems.

“We have been working to install treatment on Well 201 to address the perchlorate contamination,” SCV Water’s Chief Operating Officer Keith Abercrombie said in an email last week.

The treatment involved using a “perchlorate removal resin” at Well 201.

“This treatment was installed mid-2017 and startup operations began to pump/treat the well water to remove perchlorate and then discharge the treated water to the storm drain, which ultimately flows to the river,” Abercrombie said.

“And while this water met all drinking water standards, there were a number of instances in late 2017 and early 2018 that did not meet certain standards set by the Regional Water Quality Control Board for discharge to the river,” he said.

“Namely, mineral content as measured by total dissolved solids along with a few instances of sulfate exceeding the limit,” he added.

Anytime anyone adds something to natural waterways in California they need a permit from the regional water board in their area. There are nine boards in the state.

The permit — called a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit — spells out specifically how much of any substance can be added to the water.

Any permit holder who puts more than the specified amount into the water is in violation of state water laws.

That’s what happened to SCV Water staffers working on Well 201 late last year and early this year.

Asked about the fine, Abercrombie said: “It pertains to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit obtained from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board for the discharge of water from Well 201 to the environment — in this case the Santa Clara River.”

“We collected the necessary samples and filed the appropriate reports with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and upon discovery of the issue, we implemented a strategy to blend system water — lower in total dissolved solids and sulfate — with the treated water from Well 201 in order to meet the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s permit limits,” Abercrombie said.

Total dissolved solids refers to any minerals, salts and metals dissolved in water. Sulfates are salts.

Perchlorate has been shown to interfere with the uptake of iodide by the thyroid gland and to thereby reduce the production of thyroid hormones, leading to adverse effects associated with inadequate hormone levels.

Asked about paying the fine, SCV Water spokeswoman Kathie Martin said Thursday: “The payment has not been made yet, but is being processed.”

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