Former road flare company wants to stop delivering bottled water
to San Martin residents whose wells test below 6 parts per
Morgan Hill – The Olin Corp. has applied to stop bottled water delivery to the users of 78 perchlorate-contaminated wells in San Martin.
The application follows a finding made earlier this year by the State Water Resources Control Board that the company need not provide water to residents whose wells test at or below 6 parts per billion, the state’s public health goal for the contaminant.
Perchlorate is a by-product of rocket fuel and road flares shown in some tests to disrupt thyroid function. Since 2002, Olin has been providing water to residents whose wells test as low as 2 to 4 parts per billion, at the direction of the Central Coast Regional Water Control Board.
Earlier this year, the state water board said that the regional board “abused its discretion” by forcing Olin to replace water testing below the public health goal.
The application is expected to be the first of several Olin makes to cease water deliveries. Under the state ruling, the company does not have to replace the water of any well that tests at or below the health goal for four consecutive quarters. All water deliveries will continue through February.
Olin says it has spent close to $1 million since March 12, 2004 providing water to the users of 566 wells that test below 6 parts per billion. Providing water only for those wells that test above 6 parts per billion and monitoring wells as low as 2 parts per billion, Olin has said, will “fully protect the public.”
It’s not clear how many residents get their water from the 78 wells. San Martin resident Bob Cerruti, whose well has tested at 6 and 5.6 in two recent quarters, said he fears his family will lose bottled water next year, and he doesn’t believe the public health goal is low enough.
“I think we’re going to be next,” Cerruti said.
South County’s perchlorate contamination was revealed in February 2003, when Olin tried to sell its former road flare factory on Railroad Avenue in Morgan Hill. The plume has spread about 9.5 miles to the south and east of the site, contaminating more than 1,000 wells in the area.
The most recent set of tests showed contamination levels decreasing. Of the 850 wells tested over the summer, 642 wells tested below 4 parts per billion, 34 wells above 6 and 7 wells above 10.
Olin is now developing the final cleanup plan for the aquifer, which it must submit to the regional board by June 30, 2006.