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Sen. Boxer Urges State Perchlorate Standards

Aug 9, 2003 | Ventura County Star,

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said Friday she is drafting a letter to the state Environmental Protection Agency to address the issue of perchlorate in Simi Valley groundwater when the agency establishes safe drinking water standards.

Those standards are expected by early 2004.

While Simi Valley does not use groundwater for drinking supplies, high levels of perchlorate have been detected in groundwater wells in the city and in a well adjacent to Ahmanson Ranch. More recently, perchlorate was detected in surface water in Simi Valley neighborhoods with high water tables.

"As they set the standards for drinking water, we will see that they address the issues concerning Simi," Boxer said.

Around the state, cities affected by perchlorate are adopting the same safe drinking water standards for groundwater to avoid future liability. Perchlorate, the main ingredient in rocket fuel, and in lesser amounts for ammunition, fireworks and other products, is known to pose serious health risks. It has been linked to thyroid disorders and cancer and can affect physical and mental development in fetuses.

Boxer, who has led the federal effort to clean up perchlorate contamination in California communities, announced during a perchlorate conference at the University of California at Riverside on Thursday that the Department of Defense has entered into an agreement with the state of California to abide by state drinking water standards for perchlorate.

The agreement promises the Department of Defense will delay compliance until a federal standard is adopted. Federal officials say it could be years before a federal standard is established.

"I think we are at the point where we are going to make some progress," Boxer said. She stressed the urgency of cleaning up the contamination to California drinking and irrigation water supplies, which were largely contaminated by Department of Defense activities stretching back to the 1940s.

"Time is not on our side. It is tough to have economic development when we are losing our local water supplies," Boxer said.

John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for the environment, said the Department of Defense will set up a state task force made up of state agencies such as the Department of Social and Health Services and state Environmental Protection Agency.

Woodley said the task force will help the Department of Defense work more effectively with the state. The Department of Defense has been often criticized for holding up cleanup efforts

"We are in that awkward period between the time when a matter is addressed as a public threat and the time when we have all the tools to deal with the matter on a routine basis," Woodley said.

Woodley said the Department of Defense will agree to comply with cleanup standards set by the state but noted it was still too early to speculate if the federal government would pick up the tab for the cleanup.

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