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State to Aid Sonoma County Neighborhood With Contaminated Wells
Pamela J. Podger / SF Chronicle 11nov00

SANTA ROSA -- In response to complaints about contaminated well water in an unincorporated area of Sonoma County, state officials will start hooking up affected homes to the city of Santa Rosa water system this week.

The announcement came at a meeting Thursday night where 200 people told city, county and state officials that they are dismayed about an underground plume of hazardous solvents linked to former dry cleaners in the area.

Contamination has been detected in the wells of 16 homes in a county area encircled by the city of Santa Rosa, and residents say about 90 wells could be tainted.

Several residents said they wonder whether birth defects and cancer cases in the neighborhood could be linked to contaminated water detected in 1991. Residents have been advised to use bottled water.

Luis Rivera of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board said hookups to the Santa Rosa city water system will begin next week at homes along West College Avenue that have contaminated wells. He added that treatment systems will be installed at homes along Lance and Clover drives that do not have easy access to city lines.

State investigators have traced a possible source of the contamination to several dry cleaners along West College Avenue and possibly to auto salvage yards. Solvents, including tetrachloroethylene, are used by dry cleaners and auto shops. The solvent is heavier than water and moves in the direction of water flow.

In animal studies, the chemical has been linked to several forms of cancer.

State emergency funds of $100,000 will cover costs for homes where the drinking water has been contaminated.

``We need to get additional money . . . because we are finding more contaminated wells each day,'' said the board's division chief, Susan Warner ``We don't have enough money right now to hook up and treat everyone with contaminated wells.''

In at least two sites, contamination was determined to be far in excess of the level considered safe, officials said.

``The community and I, myself, are very concerned about the health issues related to the contamination,'' said Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley, who represents that area. ``We need to make sure there is a clean and safe water supply in this area for all the residents.''

Warner said the direction the plume flows may shift seasonally. She said officials plan to retest the ``clean'' wells.

She said a request for funds will be made at the board's next meeting, Nov. 29 in Eureka. Containment and tracking of the tainted groundwater also requires more funds, which are issued on a competitive basis with other California projects.

Dewey Burson, who lives on Clover Drive, urged the board to demand funds before the contamination spreads.

``I know how to get funds. It is getting ahold of someone and convincing them to let go,'' Burson said. ``I'm asking you to put the energy into getting those funds.''

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