State launches chromium investigation

August 23, 2000

Buck Wargo

GLENDALE -- With Glendale a month away from using San Fernando Valley

groundwater for the first time in two decades, the state has launched an

investigation to identify companies responsible for chromium

contamination in area water wells.

The investigation by the Regional Water Control Board and funded by

the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started with the development of


a list of more than 250 companies that could have contributed to the

chromium contamination, said Mel Blevins, a court-appointed master who

oversees water supplies for the region and is a member of a chromium task


Companies are being surveyed to find out what chemicals and metals the

companies use, and there will be a follow-up investigation at those sites

to determine their responsibility, Blevins said. Some of the companies

likely targeted are in the aerospace industry, circuit board makers and

plating companies, officials said.

Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6 is a carcinogen and

manufacturing byproduct of chromium. High doses of it has been shown to

cause stomach cancer in laboratory animals.

"The chromium investigation is yet to begin," said Dixon Oriola,

senior engineering geologist at the water control board. "We are working

to identify what specific companies are the sources of chromium

contamination in the soil and groundwater. When we get going, we will

obtain information from sites."

It is unknown whether companies are still causing chromium

contamination or it is the result of decades of contamination.

ITT Industries has already submitted a plan to the state board to

remove soil and water contaminated with chromium at a an 11-acre site

near the Glendale-Burbank border, where aircraft parts were once


The investigation would mirror one performed by the EPA and the

Regional Water Control Board in which the San Fernando basin aquifer was

classified a federal Superfund site. That led to legal action and

millions of dollars paid by valley industries for the cleanup of

industrial solvements in groundwater.

Some 48 companies, including The Walt Disney Co., ITT Industries Inc.

and Lockheed Martin Corp. helped build a $24-million water treatment

system that will allow Glendale to draw from the aquifer for drinking


Earlier this month, Glendale Water & Power received its permit from

the state to operate the treatment plant.

Two of eight wells tested in February were near or exceeded the state

drinking water standards of 50 parts per billion. The drinking water in

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