Grant will aid water plant

The city's water purveyor has received a $750,000 state grant to help pay for a filter system for two perchlorate-tainted wells, likely resulting in lower rates for customers.

May 12th, 2004

Boost won't change Fontana company's rate-hike request

By Naomi Kresge, San Bernardino Sun

FONTANA, Calif., May 12, 2004 -- The city's water purveyor has received a $750,000 state grant to help pay for a filter system for two perchlorate-tainted wells, likely resulting in lower rates for customers.

Officials at San Gabriel Valley Water Co. said the grant would have no effect on the water-rate increase being sought for the company's Fontana Water Co. division.

"It wouldn't have an immediate impact, but we've asked for an accounting system that would record all the costs and all the funds we get either from polluters or government agencies. The net effect of that would be placed on rates at a future time,' said Dan Dell'Osa, the company's director of rates and revenue.

The water company had initially said the three-year, cumulative 70 percent rate increase it requested in November 2002 for its Fontana division was needed in large part to clean up the problems with perchlorate, a rocket fuel byproduct thought to cause thyroid disorder and which closed seven of its wells earlier that year.

The company's treatment plant opened Feb. 4, cost $2.9 million and uses resin-based ion exchange technology capable of filtering perchlorate out of 6,000 gallons of water per minute.

The plant treats two wells, said Mike McGraw, Fontana Water Co.'s general manager, and is operating at about 3,300 gallons per minute. Volume is expected to increase to about 5,000 gallons per minute after pumping equipment is replaced this summer.

"That's about 4.7million gallons a day, and the average household probably uses somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 to 900 gallons a day. So you can see that's a substantial amount of water that can serve customers,' McGraw said.

Five of the company's 37 wells remain off-line because of perchlorate pollution, he said.

The company has also struggled with low production from its wells in the Lytle Creek basin, he said, where four of 10 wells are dry and others are yielding less water than normal.

Water company officials said a portion of the cost of the treatment plant also came from a $1 million payment from Goodrich Corp., one of the companies suspected of being responsible for the perchlorate pollution.

Meanwhile, the state Public Utilities Commission is still considering San Gabriel Valley Water Co.'s rate-increase application. An administrative law judge in March recommended a cumulative increase of just less than 35 percent.

The city, the Fontana Unified School District and PUC staff are discussing what would be a reasonable rate increase, said Curtis Aaron, the city's public services and community services director.

"I don't want to be presumptuous, but it should help,' Aaron said of the grant.

The money is the Fontana Water Co.'s portion of a $3 million grant originally awarded four local water companies in 2002 by the State Water Resources Control Board.

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