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Perchlorate Help Sought By Rialto

Officials Seeking Federal Aid To Address Problems

Dec 26, 2002 | San Bernardino County Sun Rialto officials are applying for $1.2 million in federal grants to clean up perchlorate-contaminated well water throughout the city.

The city has been forced to close five wells after they tested positive for the substance used in the production of explosives, rocket fuel and fireworks.

High levels of perchlorate in drinking water can impair thyroid function and is considered harmful to infants and pregnant women.

Public Works Director Brad Baxter estimates it will cost Rialto $1 million to $2 million per well to treat the water and make it drinkable.

The city has lost the production of more than 10,000 gallons per minute, or 14.6 million gallons of water per day, according to documents prepared by Baxter's office in applying for the grants.

If approved, one fifth of the money would be used to assess the contamination and the rest to start the cleanup project.

"We would use $200,000 to assess the extent of the plume in the basin, and $200,000 per well for treatment,' Baxter said.

"What we are trying to do,' said City Administrator Henry Garcia, "is to leverage a variety of resources to clean up the groundwater situation, specifically in regards to perchlorate.'

Garcia is optimistic about getting the money.

"I'd like to feel that because of the level of significance of our problem, the federal government will provide relief to those with the greatest need the fastest,' he said. "I feel we have a pretty good opportunity to get funding from this in the new year.'

Baxter said, "We are also seeking funding under the Urban Water Conservation program. This is part of our ongoing efforts to seek every favorable funding dollar out there.'

The program provides money to local agencies to finance urban conservation projects to improve water use efficiency, but not groundwater cleanup.

"We are seeking money for projects under this program because every gallon we save is a gallon we don't have to treat,' Baxter said.

One of the projects covered under the conservation grant is free water-efficient toilets for residents and in public facilities, said Baxter.

"We are also seeking to install a pool cover at the city pool at the Recreation Center,' he said. "Currently, we lose 547,500 gallons a year to evaporation at the pool. The pool cover would drop that by 50 percent.'

The grant would also provide funds to replace 2,000 inaccurate water meters in the city.

Meters have an average useful life of 20 years but slow down after 15 years, according to the documents, and accuracy is reduced by as much as 40 percent during high-flow usage. As a result, customers may be using water they aren't paying for.

"We have an overall 7 percent water loss in the municipal works,' Baxter said. "We want to reduce the loss from 7 percent to 5 percent. If we can achieve a simple 1 percent reduction in the water loss, that would mean an extra 40 million gallons into our system.''

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