City to throw more money at water contamination study

The costs keep piling up as a project to study chromium 6 removal becomes a bigger expense than expected for Glendale, which has been trudging through nine years of research to strip the cancer-causing contaminant from groundwater.

Although the City Council on Tuesday approved spending another $400,000 to continue research at two testing facilities — just two months after they gave the green light to spend $550,000 in grant and state funding on more research — some city officials are getting antsy.

“This has been going on for a number of years,” said Councilman Rafi Manoukian. “I want to turn up the pressure on everyone … I want to get this thing done and over with.”

Cities in the San Fernando Valley have been grappling with chromium 6 contamination caused by aerospace manufacturing decades ago. Glendale has spent more than $7.8 million on removal research, most of which has come from state grants and other funding sources that are expected to contribute another $400,000 in reimbursement to the city.

Peter Kavounas, assistant general manager for water services at Glendale Water & Power, said he, too, was frustrated with the slow process, but that research takes time, especially as the state moves slowly to set tighter restrictions on chromium 6 levels.

“We are very much aligned in the same line of thought that we need to bring this to an end,” Kavounas said. “However, it has been a project of research, and research by definition is something difficult to predict when it will end.”

In about four years, the state may cap chromium 6 levels at between 5 and 10 parts per billion, much lower than the current 50 parts per billion limit, Kavounas said. After being treated and blended with clean imports, Glendale’s water is already around 5 parts per billion. Pretreatment, underground water from some local wells contains between 45 and 70 parts per billion.

Kavounas said the research began as a focused study, but grew larger as the field of chromium 6 removal expanded. In addition, state officials say they will look to Glendale's research as they set tighter restrictions, which has expanded the scope of the city’s research.

Part of the $400,000 will cover requests by the Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Public Health for additional cost information, according to a city report.

The money will also keep two testing facilities open through April. Then the city will deactivate one and a group composed of companies that were responsible for the presence of chromium 6 will take control of the other, according to a city report.

The money also will pay for a comprehensive report of the research effort.

Although Glendale has settled on two stripping methods, more research about side-effects is needed, Kavounas said.

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