U.S. Water News Online
COVINA, Calif. -- A water treatment plant that will help
stop the spread of groundwater contamination is now operating at
Whittier Narrows Dam. The San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority
built the plant at a well drilled by the U. S. Environmental
Protection Agency. The project is designed to capture and remove
contaminants from shallow groundwater before the contamination can
spread to water wells south of the Whittier Narrows Dam.
Speaking about the importance of groundwater protection,
California's Secretary for Resources Mary Nichols said, "Southern
California simply cannot prosper without adequate supplies of clean
and healthy drinking water. The Whittier Narrows project will help
secure that supply for 3 million people by helping keep harmful
contamination at bay."
Stanley Young, from the office of the Secretary for Resources,
noted that the project is not only cleaning up water, but also is
improving wildlife habitat at Whittier Narrows. The Water Quality
Authority (WQA) and student volunteers restored native vegetation to
the three-acre site by planting hundreds of trees and shrubs.
Young said the project required cooperation by the WQA and the EPA
with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land; the Los
Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, which leases the
site, a joint powers agency of the Santa Monica Mountains
Conservancy, which operates an adjoining nature preserve, and
students from South El Monte High School, who helped with the
"This unique project could not have been possible without a unique
set of cooperative partnerships," Young said. "This cooperation
serves as an example of how federal, municipal, and private entities
can work together for a common purpose.
"I look forward to coming back here in years to come," Young said,
"when the trees will be high, the birds will be singing, children
will be playing, and the drinking water that comes from the ground
will once again be clean, pure, and healthy."
Steve Salido, a junior at South El Monte High School who
represented the 50 students who helped restore the native habitat at
the site, said he used to drive by the area daily, but never knew
what it was. "Now when I drive by, I know that I'm a part of the area
and know that I've done something for my community," Salido said.
Doug Frazer, EPA Remedial Project Manager, said the treatment
facility is an important step in safeguarding public health. He said
it will treat groundwater in the most highly contaminated portion of
Whittier Narrows while the EPA moves forward on its long-range
He said the WQA deserves credit for acting quickly. "I am very
grateful to them for stepping in," Frazer said. "They saw high
concentrations (of contamination) in the area; they saw an extraction
well sitting there and nothing happening, and they stepped in and
agreed to install a treatment facility that is now pumping 1,500
gallons per minute."
WQA undertook the interim measure to keep contamination from
spreading from the San Gabriel Basin southward through Whittier
Narrows into the Central Basin. Each basin is a drinking water supply
for more than 1.4 million people.
Some of the treated water is being used to irrigate the newly
planted vegetation on the site. Most of the water is flowing into a
creek that runs through the adjoining Bosque del Rio Hondo, a nature
preserve in the middle of a dense urban area.
The treatment plant began operation in late December and in less
than a month has removed more than 60 pounds of contaminants from
thegroundwater. It is the second treatment facility built in the
Whittier Narrows area by the WQA. The earlier plant, constructed in
nearby South El Monte, removed 219 pounds of contamination from
September to December of last year. Most of the contamination is from
perchloroethylene (PCE), a solvent used in commercial and industrial
processes that entered the ground years ago through disposal
practices that are now prohibited.
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