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City eyes Superfund water for irrigation

Original post made on Jul 6, 2015

Brown lawns and dried-out river beds are ubiquitous in California's severe drought, but one place in Mountain View where water isn't in short supply is Stevens Creek. Year-round, the waterway near Highway 101 remains a lush oasis of running water.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, July 6, 2015, 9:47 AM

Comments (13)

Posted by Creeks not ditches
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:34 am

With out water there is no creek, just a ditch. Please place the health of the creek above the need to put all the water that the creek life needs onto our laws.

Posted by
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 6, 2015 at 11:50 am

Fantastic that this is being considered and discussed by City Council, Staff, and other stakeholders. Certainly, creek wildlife needs to be considered, and it sounds like it will be.

Posted by Lane
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:12 pm

What happens to the contaminants after they are removed from the water?

Posted by Member
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:34 pm

"When inhaled, trichloroethylene produces central nervous system depression resulting in general anesthesia."

"The symptoms of acute non-medical exposure are similar to those of alcohol intoxication, beginning with headache, dizziness, and confusion and progressing with increasing exposure to unconsciousness. Respiratory and circulatory depression can result in death."

"Occupational exposure to TCE was reported to correlate with development of symptoms of Parkinson's Disease in three laboratory workers. A retrospective twin study of pairs discordant for Parkinson's showed a six-fold increase in Parkinson's risk associated with TCE workplace exposure."

Web Link

Sure, why not! One man's toxic plume is another one's green lawn.

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Can we say "unintended consequences"?

Are we so in love with our precious lawns that we're willing to use "processed" toxic waste to water them?

Sounds really stupid when you say it like that doesn't it?

And you just wait, at some point the pipes that carry our clean water will somehow cross with the toxic waste.

And no one will know how it happened, where the toxic waste came from, where it went, and how much each person might have ingested.

The risks outweigh the benefits.

We're in a drought folks. Let your lawn die.

Posted by Dumbfounded
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Yes let's recycle toxic water while we allow thousands of gallons of clean water to run into the gutters when we flush the hydrants and supply lInes! Brilliant - since the City only has 1 working tanker truck to fill up!
And *gosh* we cannot allow residents to collect that water being flushed out since that could be dangerous.

Posted by factz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm

The concentration of VOCs in the extracted groundwater is actually very small. A part per million yields 1 ounce of contaminants per 64,000,000 gallons processed. The final cleanup standards require groundwater levels in the parts per billion. After 30-plus years of extraction, there is not a lot of toxic disposal.

Over 70 chemicals have been detected in the soil and groundwater at the MEW site. TCE is the predominant chemical. TCE is used as a broad indicator of the extent of contamination. When TCE is at the cleanup level of 5 ppb in the shallow aquifers and 0.8 ppb in the deep aquifers, it is assumed that the other chemicals will be reduced to concentrations that meet the appropriate requirements.

The contamination was discovered in studies in 1981 and 1982. The underground plume is likely decades older than that (not 30 years old). The main originating sites (Fairchild, Rheem/Raytheon, Intel) date(d) back to the late 1950s.

The component Superfund site designations were several years earlier, in May of 1985, when EPA became the lead agency (previously it had been the Regional Water Quality control Board). Raytheon, Fairchild and Intel began interim remediation earlier, with the earliest water extraction beginning in 1982. Several rounds of extraction installations followed, with a major effort under the EPA in 1987, and follow-on installations. Other methods have also been tried (e.g. vapor extraction). The EPA adopted a Decision of Record that combined individual and regional remedial plans for the MEW Superfund Study Area in 1989. This finalized the goals of the remediations as cleanup standards.

The Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman (MEW) Superfund Study Area (or MEW Site) is comprised of three National Priorities List (NPL) or Superfund sites: Fairchild Semiconductor Corp. – Mountain View Superfund site; Raytheon Company Superfund site; and Intel Corp. – Mountain View Superfund site; several other facilities; and portions of the former Naval Air Station (NAS) Moffett Field Superfund site. The "MEW Superfund Study Area" itself is not listed on the National Priorities List (NPL).

Posted by Bob
a resident of Slater
on Jul 6, 2015 at 6:01 pm

OK Pat & Lenny, you first. So the long term goal is to water our gardens with Superfund water & drink processed toilet water. It's a brave new world in The valley of hearts delight. We are surrounded by people with more degrees than a thermometer and not an ounce of common sense.

Posted by Me
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 6, 2015 at 6:06 pm

we already drink recycled toilet water. fish pee in the water that becomes our drinking water. the water we use goes back to the ocean, and eventually becomes rain or snow again. I

Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 6:49 pm

Probably too costly but I am wondering much it would cost to have recycle water delivered to a house in Mountain View, not thinking yet about the super fund water just the water comes from the waste water treatment plant that is used north of 101 in Mountain View.

Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:37 pm


The expense of building additional water delivery infrastructure to existing residential properties is probably too cost prohibitive. After all, we are talking about tap water, pennies per gallon.

That said, at some point (maybe not in my lifetime), the city may require new residential developments to build that additional infrastructure. Of course, there would be some additional costs associated with metering two separate water sources, so even if the recycled water was cheaper, the customer would bear the costs of the additional monitoring.

If I recall correctly, some of the areas in the northwest section of Mountain View (Shoreline) are actually getting recycled water from the Palo Alto sewage treatment plant. I believe some commercial customers and the golf course are amongst using this source.

Posted by Jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm

The water in the section of the creek pictured in the article is only inches deep. The creek is very low for this time of year; and even though the data references large amounts of water going into the creek, biking Steven's Creek Trail every day and seeing the toppled trees, the stagnant water and dry patches has me concerned about our creek. If the water is diverted away from the Creek, I think there would be a huge negative impact. But I am no expert, just a bike commuter who takes photos year-over-year and sees how sad our creek looks this year.

Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2015 at 11:49 am


I'm not sure if the data references a large amount of water (the definition is not provided) or if it is simply the author of this article who decided to apply that adjective.

Furthermore "thousands of gallons ... each day" is almost meaningless. Are we talking three thousand, thirty thousand, or three hundred thousand? A shower head or sink faucet with a flow restrictor pours out about 2 gallons per minute; over 24 hours, that's about three thousand gallons.

My guess is that "thousands of gallons" would still only result in a couple inches of creek depth, which is what we see in the photos. The recycled water from the MEW Superfund site enters Stevens Creek maybe 1.5 miles from the estuary, which is why Stevens Creek is basically dry south of 101.

Whatever the MEW treated water is doing to the ecology only affects the last 1.5 miles of the creek. Of course, the impact of reducing that water should probably be investigated.

The water level at Stevens Creek Reservoir is still fairly high right now, so clearly whoever is in charge of the dam is parsimoniously releasing water.

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