small, private water company in an unincorporated area near San Bernardino issued warnings to customers not to drink the water
because its well is contaminated with perchlorate and nitrate, toxic chemicals linked to serious health problems.
Baseline Gardens Mutual Water Co. serves 424 homes in a pocket east of San Bernardino, less than a half-mile square,
near Base Line and Del Rosa Drive. The company hung fliers on doorknobs last week advising residents of test results.
The first samples were taken July 21. After confirmation samples on July 26, the well was shut down by the company
and emergency service was provided by the San Bernardino Municipal Water Department, said Ralph Montano, a spokesman with
the state Department of Public Health.
Three days later, the well was turned on again because
it could not keep up with customer demand, Montano said. On July 31 a second emergency supply was provided by East Valley
Water District in Highland and the contaminated well was shut off again, he said.
high levels of perchlorate and nitrate, which are used in the production of explosives and fertilizers. Neither of them is
uncommon in Southern California water systems because of longtime aerospace and agriculture operations that occurred in the
region, water experts said.
Messages left at the Baseline Gardens office seeking comment were
not returned Friday. A recording said the company is receiving water from other districts and that water is safe to drink,
but should be conserved or else the contaminated well will have to be turned on again.
Velarde said he and other residents were scared. Before the notice, many of them had noticed an odor in the water and residue
left behind in pans after boiling, he said.
Velarde has been using bottled water for cooking and
brushing his teeth for more than a month, but many people in the area can't afford it, he said.
biggest thing, some of the neighbors were wondering about showering in it. It gets in your pores," he said.
Following Los Angeles County, San Bernardino and Riverside counties have some of the highest occurrences of nitrate
and perchlorate in drinking water in the state, according to the Department of Public Health.
can disrupt the thyroid gland's ability to absorb iodide, needed to make the hormones that guide brain and nerve development
of fetuses and babies. The maximum contaminant level, the point above which health problems could occur, is 6 parts per billion
-- roughly equal to six drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
The Baseline Gardens
level was 16 to 17 parts per billion, according to the Department of Public Health.
pregnant women are especially vulnerable to problems from nitrate, which interferes with oxygen uptake in the body and can
cause "blue baby syndrome." The state's maximum contaminant level for nitrate is 45 parts per million; Baseline
Gardens' reading was 58 parts per million.
Customers were advised to not give the water to pregnant
women or infants under 6 months old and to not use it to make formula.
They also were told not
to drink the water even after freezing, filtering or letting it stand, because the contaminants will remain; they also were
advised not to boil the water, because it can make the chemicals more concentrated.
district engineer at East Valley, said his agency connected a 150-foot hose between fire hydrants to get water to Baseline
Gardens' customers. His district dismissed the idea of blending its water with the contaminated supply.
"Their values are so high, it doesn't even make sense," he said. "They're in a world of hurt right
Baseline Gardens will have to decide whether to continue in the water business and,
if so, would have to install treatment wells, a process that could easily take a year, he said. Otherwise, East Valley would
step in and a new system would be installed, with the cost absorbed by Baseline Gardens' former customers.
Reach Janet Zimmerman at 951-368-9586 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 951-368-9586 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or jzimmerman@PE.com