Santa Monica Lookout
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Santa Monica Invests Millions to Safeguard Drinking Water

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

October 16, 2015 -- The  City Council on Tuesday voted to invest more than $3.6 million over the next three years to safeguard Santa Monica's main drinking water source from contaminants and to keep trash out of storm drains.

Critical maintenance is needed to ensure the five groundwater wells at the City's 10-acre Charnock Well Field site on Westminster Avenue, which represent 80 percent of Santa Monica's drinking water resource, stay free of Methyl tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE), an ingredient in gasoline, City officials said.

As a result, City Council members unanimously approved a one-year $1.1 million contract with Carbon Activated Corp. (CAC), with two one-year renewal options for a total of $3.3 million to perform maintenance work at the Charnock Treatment Facility.

In 1996, the discovery of high levels of MTBE and Tertiary Butyl Alcohol (TBA), another  gas additive, forced the shut down of the wells, which were installed between 1966 and 1986, according to staff's report to the council.

Other chemicals had also historically seeped into the Charnock groundwater well field from the improper disposal of dry cleaning agents, paint strippers and degreasing solvents, staff wrote. But a plan proposed in 2008 resulted in the treatment plant opening in 2010.

Regular replacement of the facility's filtration system is required to meet state and federal water quality safety standards and “optimize the removal of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), said the report recommending the contract.

CAC also will conduct carbon testing to ensure the new system is performing properly and will dispose of the old filtration system, according to the contract.

The treatment plant is a key part of the City's strategy to wean itself off Metropolitan Water District supplies, officials said.

“Moreover, restoration of local water supplies provides far-reaching benefits: protection of distant aquatic eco-systems, restoration of the environment, reduction of imported water costs, reduction of energy and protection from continued drought and potential emergency conditions,” said a 2008 City report on the well restoration project.

Along with safeguarding drinking water, City Council members approved spending $536,824 to install storm drain catch screens in 745 existing storm drain catch basins in Kenter Canyon, Pico Boulevard at 4th Street, and the Pico-Caltrans sub-watersheds, awarding the contract to United Storm Water Inc.

Council members also approved $94,200 to cover the costs of necessary permits from the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD) to install the screens. Permit costs are estimated to range from $100 to $300 per catch basin, said a staff report.

The City owns 431 of the catch basins, and 314 are owned by the LACFCD, but the City “is responsible for device installations in these facilities,” staff said.

“In high and medium trash areas within these sub-watersheds, catch basins will be retrofitted with automated retractable screen (ARS) devices” designed to prevent larger items, greater than 2 feet,  from entering the catch basin, staff wrote in its report.

The retrofit “in turn, also reduces the amount of maintenance required to clean trash accumulated in the catch basins,” said the report.

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