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Morgan Hill
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October 16, 2021

Waiting on answers to perchlorate questions

Bad news on water contamination is travelling fast through the
underground aquifer in South Valley. The latest perchlorate
poisoning nugget: 315 new wells in the Gilroy area should be
tested. The contaminated plume is mostly flowing
“downhill” from its source in Morgan Hill, a former Olin Corp.
safety flare manufacturing plant.
Bad news on water contamination is travelling fast through the underground aquifer in South Valley. The latest perchlorate poisoning nugget: 315 new wells in the Gilroy area should be tested. The contaminated plume is mostly flowing “downhill” from its source in Morgan Hill, a former Olin Corp. safety flare manufacturing plant.

And in an omnious finding last month, the city of Morgan Hill took two wells temporarily off line because of initial perchlorate detections of 6 parts per billion and 5 ppb respectively. What is worrying is that these plants are north of the Olin site, signifying either a more serious problem from Olin than thought or another source of the chemical. Neither is good news.

Perhaps worse than the growing plume is the frustration that accompanies the worry. The perchlorate problem in South Valley is vexing indeed because there are so few answers.

How much is too much? There isn’t a solid proven scientific answer for that salient question for humans, pets or even agricultural products.

The second-tier obvious questions – how do you clean it up and at what cost? – don’t have a definitive answer either.

So, thousands of South Valley residents are left mulling the possibility of a decades-long cleanup and waiting for science to discover what levels of perchlorate in the water are tolerable. Is it 400 parts per billion or 4 ppb?

The only good news is that we’re not alone. There are literally hundreds of sites in the United States, and people are searching for and demanding answers. The bad news is that South Valley is joining a pioneer group, and we all know about pioneers – they’re the ones with the arrows in their backs.

What’s clear is that this is a serious public health issue that could also have a substantial negative impact on the local economy. Housing prices and agricultural products are most vulnerable. Real estate agents will have to disclose the contamination and, in a market that is already lukewarm, the news certainly won’t help.

On the agriculture end, the question goes beyond whether the roadside outlets for strawberries and local products will be shunned. Area farmers will have to add to their list of concerns whether a contamination problem could shut down their entire operation.

Given all these uncertainties, it’s best to be prudent and to keep the lines of communication open.

We urge the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the lead local regulatory agency in this matter, to quickly set a time and place for another community meeting. Our two South Valley representatives on the water district board, Rosemary Kamei in Morgan Hill and Sig Sanchez in Gilroy, should insist on this and insist on a series of meetings. Obviously, when 800 residents showed up at the last meeting, it’s clear there’s a demand.

Meanwhile, residents should do what they can: seek answers, drink bottled water and be reasonable.

To keep up to date on perchlorate contamination in our area and others: www.valleywater.org; www.smneighbors.org; www.perchlorate.org; www.ewg.org; 888-HEY-NOAH (888-439-6624)

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