2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 11 Jun 2003 13:58:14 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Un-Well Water
Un-Well Water
By Leon Worden City Editor

Carelessness, indifference, ignorance. Words used in the latest edition
of Western Water, the organ of the Sacramento-based Water Education
Foundation, to explain the cause of the perchlorate contamination in
much of California’s water supply.

How much? Environment California, a public-interest research group,
reports that 70 billion gallons of water — equivalent to 35 percent of
the state’s supply from the Colorado River — is tainted with
contaminants such as perchlorate and the gasoline additive methyl
tertiary butyl ether.

The latter, known by its acronym MTBE, was the big headline grabber
until Erin Brockovich — both the activist and the feature film — thrust
chromium-6 into the spotlight.

Before that, man-made solvents like trichloroethylene (TCE), which
attacks the human central nervous system, made people nervous when it
leeched its way into the ground in places like Sand Canyon, where the
specialty metals fabricator Space Ordnance Systems (SOS) was found in
1984 to have stored and dumped its hazardous waste illegally.

The 1970s brought the first accusations that Keysor-Century Corp., a
plastics maker in Saugus since the 1950s, was releasing vinyl chloride,
a carcinogen, into the air and water. The target of an ongoing criminal
investigation, Keysor-Century shut its resin plant Jan. 1 this year.

Earlier still, pesticides were found to harm more than just insects,
prompting the federal government to ban a particular type of
trichloroethylene — dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT — in 1972.

Just two years prior, President Richard M. Nixon announced the formation
of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which would coordinate the
approach to ridding the air, water and land of pollutants.

Today, high levels of chlorides and nitrates are making sporadic news,
but topping the EPA’s list, thanks in no small measure to state and
federal lawmakers who’ve introduced a flurry of legislation this year,
is perchlorate.

Why now? Why, if perchlorates have been known to exist in groundwater in
various parts of the state since the 1950s?

Carelessness, indifference, ignorance, says the Water Education
Foundation. Carelessness on the part of manufacturing companies that
mishandled perchlorate waste, and regulatory agencies that didn’t
adequately regulate. Indifference by politicians who focused instead on
whatever chemical was capturing the public’s imagination at the moment.
Ignorance about the harmful effects of perchlorate in low doses —
something scientists didn’t begin to study, and health officials
couldn’t competently measure, until 1997.

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