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Barstow residents advised not to drink tap water because of possible contamination

November 19, 2010 |  5:54 pm

Barstow residents were warned Friday not to drink local tap water, which recent tests show may be contaminated.

Golden State Water Co. posted the warning on its website after the agency was notified Thursday that samples contained high levels of perchlorate, an inorganic chemical that interferes with the human thyroid gland, affecting hormones as well as prenatal growth during pregnancies.

The chemical is found in rocket propellant, fireworks, explosives, flares, matches and industrial byproducts. According to the agency's statement, the chemical “usually gets into drinking water as a result of environmental contamination from historic aerospace or other industrial operations that used or use, store, or dispose of perchlorate and its salts.”

Golden State learned of the possible contamination Thursday when staff at the Barstow Marine Corps Logistics Base Nebo, about five miles southeast of Barstow, notified the company that samples taken from the base’s water system showed levels of perchlorate above the maximum contaminant level of 6 parts per billion set by state regulators, according to the company’s statement Friday.

In response, Golden State officials collected samples for additional testing Friday from the water system outside the base and all active wells serving the Barstow system.

“Golden State Water Company is aggressively investigating our water system to determine the source of contamination so that it can be eliminated,” the statement said.

In the meantime, customers in Barstow and surrounding unincorporated areas were advised not to drink the water or use it to make ice or other beverages. Customers were warned that boiling, freezing, filtering or letting water stand does not make it any safer -- boiling water can actually increase the concentration of perchlorate, making it more hazardous.

The water may be safely used for non-drinking purposes, according to the statement.

A Golden State spokesman did not return calls for comment late Friday.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

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