Local water officials filtering out toxic chemical

Local water officials are filtering out a problem in your drinking water, known as 123 TCP. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Local water officials are filtering out a problem in your drinking water, known as 123 TCP.

This contaminant was used as a soil fumigant in the 1960s and '70s by Dow Chemical and Shell. Over time, it moved into the groundwater and flowed into local water wells, contaminating them with high levels 123 TCP.

Last year, the state set a maximum contaminant level of 5 parts per a trillion, meaning any wells over that number are considered unhealthy for consumption.

Thirty-five out of 63 wells within the city of Bakersfield. and 23 out of over 180 wells within the Cal Water district, are over that maximum contaminant level. Officials are currently in the process of making sure each well is equipped with the proper filtration device so that when water is delivered to customers, it is TCP-free.

Any wells over that maximum contaminant level are offline until filtration is complete.

The best-known way of getting rid of the contaminant is through a process known as granulated activated carbon.

"On the top they have a piping system that distributes the water. It's basically an empty shell. And inside that shell is filled two-thirds full with granulated activated carbon. The water goes into the top, gets distributed, and then it goes down through the carbon that absorbs the TCP and other chemicals, and it's through the piping system, in the distributor system that you see here where ultimately it comes out of the vessels and ties into the distribution center," described Art Chianello, water resources manager with the city.

The filtration site off of Truxtun is one of Bakersfield's first sites that went under construction and should be complete within the next couple of months.

The process to get rid of this contaminant costs several hundred thousand of dollars for a single well.

"That is very, very effective in removing the TCP from the groundwater. It's actually one of the best treatment that we know to remove the TCP," said Chianello.

To help pay for the costs, water companies raised water rates in October. However, a few weeks ago the city and Cal Water reached a settlement with Dow Chemical and Shell, and there is a potential for water rates to go down.

Cal Water has 11 TCP-free wells currently up and running, and it is still in the process of finishing the rest.

"We have had a short time frame to put in treatment of our 24 sites here in Bakersfield," said Mike Mares, district manager with Cal Water.

Both the city and Cal Water say they are on track to meet the deadline and have all wells in compliance within the next several months.

"It's always been our goal to meet all the drinking water standards, and that's exactly what we are doing now ... and we will continue to deliver clean drinking water to the people," said Chianello.

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