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Valley Water Clean Enough for Humans - but Not Fish

A $100 million plan to clean up groundwater contaminated by the aerospace industry faces setbacks as officials struggle to contain remnants of toxic waste.

The plan was to clean water contaminated with perchlorates and other chemicals and discharge it into the San Gabriel River. But, while federal and state laws say the water is good enough for drinking, it's not safe for fish.

"Although they meet drinking water standards, they don't meet water quality standards," said Ray Chavira, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency. "It affects fresh water fish and microorganisms and their ability to reproduce. It doesn't affect humans."

So now, officials are scrambling to come up with a place to send the clean water.

"We need to contain this plume before it reaches drinking water wells," Chavira said. "So we have to worry about time." Photo Gallery San Gabe Water Cleanup Faces Setbacks [ A $100 million plan to clean up groundwater contaminated by the aerospace industry faces setbacks as officials struggle to contain remnants of toxic waste.

The problem is that there's already $5 million worth of pipes and wells in place, ready to pump contaminated water into a treatment facility that would send it to the river, officials said.

A possible solution is taking the newly cleaned water and using it to recharge the aquifer beneath the San Gabriel Valley. Another solution is simply recycling it.

Representatives of San Gabriel Valley cities, water districts and officials from the EPA plan to meet Jan. 7 to discuss a variety of proposals.

Though the project will clean up some 4 million gallons of water a day, finding a use for it is complicated. To be used as drinking water, health officials require it to be blended with water that was never contaminated. Other solutions could require different pipes to be laid, additional treatments, and large fees from various water agencies.