Water Supply in CA Town Contaminated with Toxic Chemical Used to Make Explosives


Photo: Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikipedia/CC BY-SA

The vast majority of the time, tap water is your best bet for clean, cheap water in the US. Not so in Barstow, CA. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently declared a state of emergency in San Bernadino County when it was discovered that the water supply was contaminated with the toxic chemical perchlorate. Perchlorate is commonly used to make explosives and rocket fuel.
Here' the LA Times' report:

According to the governor's declaration, more than 40,000 customers were without their normal supply of drinking water, and several restaurants, hotels and other businesses had to close because of the contamination ...

"My customers are worried," said George Faour, 33, who owns Barstow Liquor. "I have parents afraid that their kids are going to get sick." Faour said residents packed into his business Friday when word spread that levels of perchlorate in several city wells had reached unacceptable levels. His customers have been stocking up on bottles and gallon containers of water.

Golden State spokesman John Dewey said the company began warning residents after samples taken Thursday from the water system at the nearby Marine Corps logistics base showed levels of perchlorate three to four times higher than the state limit.

The Times then quotes Dewey as saying that they're still looking for what might have caused the contamination, but offer no further evidence as to what caused a chemical commonly used to make explosives to enter a small town's water supply. Which is, I should note, a rather horrifying and unacceptable occurrence.

But allow me to entertain a hunch: It probably had something to do with that nearby Marine Corps logistics base, whose mission, according to Wikipedia, "is to rebuild and repair ground-combat and combat-support equipment and to support installations on the West Coast of the United States." It seems more likely than not that the contamination originated there ... especially since it's the major industry in the town of Barstow, population 21,000. Some pretty amazing sleuthing there, right? Next case.

More on Water Contamination
Two-Headed Fish Spark Concern Over Pesticide Contamination
Trust Your Tap Water
25 Things You Might Not Know About Water

Tags: California | United States | Water Crisis

Best of TreeHugger