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Treated Water From Mountain View Toxic Site Eyed For Irrigation, Potential Drinking Water

MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF) -- Groundwater from a toxic site in Mountain View, treated and then disposed of, is now being viewed as a source for irrigation and could also be considered for drinking water.

The recycled water is released into what would otherwise by drought-dry Stevens Creek – about a 300,000 gallons a day, or 120 million gallons a year, according to one estimate.

"All, or most of the water that we see down in the creek right now is water that is coming out of treatment systems from toxic sites," Mountain View City Councilmember Lenny Siegel told KPIX 5.

The water comes from an aquifer contaminated with the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), part of the Middlefield-Ellis-Whitman (MEW) Superfund Study Area in Mountain View, once home to several technology and industrial firms.

For decades, soil and groundwater around Moffett Air Field were contaminated by a variety of chemicals, the primary one being TCE, which has shown to cause cancer and heart deformities.

Siegel and other councilmembers are pushing to take that recycled water and use it for the city's irrigation needs, including landscaping and lawns.

"Mountain View uses maybe over 10 million gallons of water a day," said Siegel. "We could eventually be using maybe three million gallons a day of recycled water."

Siegel want the city to build out a system to begin using the treated water throughout the city. "One of the benefits of the water, because its just being poured down the creek, it's free water," said Siegel. "While it may cost money to pump it or pipe it, the water itself shouldn't cost anything."

So far, only the NASA Ames Research Center has tapped into this recycled water source.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the treated water is safe to use and is also a potential future source of drinking water.

The EPA's maximum drinking water contaminant level for TCE is 0.005 mg/L or 5 ppb.

Mountain View officials have met with EPA representatives to begin getting clearances for using the water, according to a report in the Mountain View Voice.

The report also said an environmental study would be required to determine how diverting large quantities of water from Stevens Creek would affect protected species such as steelhead trout.

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