A Tight Leash on Olin Corp.

Let’s make sure the definition of a good corporate citizen
includes erring on the side of caution when it comes down to
poisoned groundwater
The fact that the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board ordered Olin Corp. to resume shipping bottled water to 61 South County households shows how important careful, close government oversight is in the case of the perchlorate plume snaking its way through our aquifers.

In June, Olin stopped sending bottled water to the owners of 459 wells. The board ordered that 61 households be put back on the list because of concerns that naturally occurring ions might have impacted the test results.

“We’re just being conservative,” Thea Tryon, engineering geologist for the water board, told reporter Tony Burchyns.

Because the shipments might only last for one more quarter and only affect less than 10 percent of the total number of wells, we’re concerned that they’re not being conservative enough.

Perchlorate is a type of sodium that can impact the thyroid by interfering with it’s ability to properly use iodide. Perchlorate exposure is especially troublesome in pregnant and nursing women, infants, and children.

The households that lost bottled water delivery from Olin had perchlorate readings below 6 parts per billion for four consecutive quarters.

When it comes to South Valley’s health and the quality of its ground water, we’re not sure that’s good enough.

The reason is that there’s simply not enough data on perchlorate. We don’t know what constitutes a safe level. We don’t know how dry weather or rainy weather – like we had this winter – impacts well readings. Is 6 ppb low enough? Are four consecutive quarters below that level enough? Unfortunately, we just don’t know.

Like Sylvia Hamilton, head of the Perchlorate Community Advisory Committee,

we’re glad that the state board is “so meticulous and professional.”

We’re just not sure that they’re tough enough. We think that there needs to be a wide margin of error – and that margin needs to be on the side of the residents, innocent victims of the perchlorate plume caused by Olin’s former road flare factory in Morgan Hill. We need to err on the side of caution in both the acceptable level of perchlorate in our groundwater and in the amount of time a well has to register below that level before Olin can terminate bottled water deliveries.

When the news of the perchlorate pollution first broke a few years ago, Olin assured South County residents that it would be a good corporate citizen. Its eagerness to cut off bottled water delivery as quickly as possible shows that it’s more interested in being good to its shareholders.