MTBE foes urge retests

LA CRESCENTA — Residents fighting the installation of a large water treatment facility at a Crescenta Valley Water District well could score a small victory next week.

Earlier this month, residents presented the district's board of directors with a petition opposing plans to build a treatment facility for Methyl tert-butyl ether, known as MTBE, at a well located at the corner of Pennsylvania and Mills avenues.

While the plans for the $1.1-million grant-funded facility to remove MTBE have been in the works for more than a year, residents only recently learned of the project.

In the petition, 23 residents questioned the need for the treatment facility, citing the district's own data that shows very low levels of MTBE detected at the well in the past eight months. They urged officials to do more testing before moving forward with the project.

"You have to exhaust all possibilities before you commit to this million-dollar project," said resident Simon Mirzayan, who lives next door to the well.

The board's engineering committee on Tuesday is scheduled to recommend that the full board vote in favor of the additional water testing, said James Bodnar, one of two board members who sit on the committee.

The committee, Bodnar said, will recommend that the board approve five days of testing for the well, which has been shut off for more than a year. The testing is estimated to cost roughly $100,000 because it will require extensive monitoring and blending with imported water to ensure it does not affect drinking water standards.

The recommended testing would require a majority vote of the district's five-member board.

While the testing would not be covered by the state grant, Bodnar said he agrees with residents that it is important to ensure the well still has high levels of the contaminant before the large treatment facility is installed.

Utility officials have said they suspect MTBE levels will spike once the well is turned on again, but have acknowledged there is no way to know for sure.

"We did listen to the community's concerns with respect to their request to do more testing," he said.

Either way, he added, it is important to return the well to regular service. The district saw increased costs of roughly $600,000 last year — mostly due to imported water — because of the well being out of service.

"I do think that we do need to get this well online because we are purchasing more imported water every day that this well is offline," Bodnar said. "So we need to return this well to its capacity and reduce our imported deliveries."

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