Testing requirements stall water treatment facility

LA CRESCENTA — A planned water treatment facility for a Crescenta Valley well has been postponed after state officials warned a $1.1-million grant for the project would be held back until additional testing proved it was needed.

The Crescenta Valley Water District Board of Directors had been pressing ahead with the treatment facility for Methyl tert-butyl ether, known as MTBE, at a well located at the corner of Pennsylvania and Mills avenues, but state officials said that without proving high toxin levels there, the district wouldn't get the grant.

On Tuesday, the Crescenta Valley Water District Board of Directors approved up to $100,000 for the additional testing.

The delay was a small victory for neighbors of the planned project who said they weren't notified of the facility, which they argued wasn't even needed because the district's own data showed very low levels of MTBE over the past eight months.

First detected at elevated levels in a Crescenta Valley well in 2006, MTBE is believed to have entered the water supply from leaking underground gasoline storage tanks.

While contaminant levels are kept far below state and federal standards through the blending of imported water, the contamination has forced the temporary closure of groundwater wells and cost the district millions of dollars.

Water district officials are suing past tank owners in an attempt to recover money spent on the cleanup.

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

On Tuesday, district Engineer David Gould, who had initially said testing could hold up the project, recommended further tests after state officials said the project's construction would not be eligible for a previously awarded $1.1-million grant unless higher MTBE levels were proven.

"If not, we would have to go and look at a different course of action," Gould said.

The board unanimously approved the testing, acknowledging the importance of solving the MTBE problem, which has taken a heavy toll on the district's bottom line.

Last year alone, the district saw increased costs of roughly $600,000 — mostly due to imported water — because of the well being out of service.

"Hopefully, we will be reimbursed down the line," said board member Judy Tejada.

The five-day test, estimated to cost between $50,000 and $100,000, is slated to start early next month.

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