From: Carol Holzgrafe, The Dispatch, Gilroy, Calif.
Published September 21, 2004 12:00 AM

Olin Corp. must provide bottled water to residents with contaminated wells

Sep. 21— MORGAN HILL, Calif. — The state Regional Water Quality Control Board has denied a request by the firm responsible for polluting the groundwater with a cancer causing chemical. Olin Corporation must continue to provide free bottled water to residents with wells contaminated with perchlorate.

The next step is a hearing before the state water board on Olin's request for a stay on providing water. The company has appealed an April 7, 2004, order from the regional board.

The process is expected to take a year before a final decision is made.

Meanwhile, those with wells testing at 4 parts per billion and higher will continue to be eligible for the bottled water.

Olin had wanted to provide the water only to those testing at 6 ppb and higher, reflecting the state Public Health Goal of 6 ppb set in March. A PHG is the level the state considers not posing a significant health risk to humans.

The regional board's reasoning for denying the appeal was based on the unreliability of perchlorate tests and fluctuating levels in well water and the continuing uncertainty among the scientific community over how much perchlorate is harmful and to whom.

Rick McClure, Olin's project manager for the local cleanup, said he had not seen the report, issued late Monday afternoon, and would have no comment.

Perchlorate was discovered in August 2000 on the Tennant/Railroad avenue site of a former Olin Corp./Standard Fusee plant where safety flares were manufactured for 40 years. Perchlorate is used to enhance the effectiveness of rocket fuel and flares. The chemical leached into the groundwater and by January 2003 was found to have traveled through San Martin and into north Gilroy.

Olin Corp. accepted its responsibility for perchlorate found south of Tennant Avenue.

PCAG, the Perchlorate Community Advisory Group, meets Thursday, Sept. 23, 7-9pm., at the San Martin Lions Club, 12415 Murphy Ave. Olin representatives will be on hand to present their quarterly report on the cleanup effort from the Olin site on Tennant Avenue. They will discuss point of entry treatment systems that could be used to remove perchlorate from private wells and will present Olin's groundwater flow assessment report on perchlorate in Morgan Hill's northeast wells.

Olin claims no responsibility for any perchlorate found north of its site though three city wells have been closed because of the chemical.

City Manager Ed Tewes will offer the city's interpretation of the Olin report -- both the city and the local water district differ with Olin's conclusions -- and the results of a Wednesday meeting between the city, Olin, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the regional board staff on the same subject.

(c) 2004, The Dispatch, Gilroy, Calif. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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