Water quality officials are inviting the public to an informational meeting about TCE groundwater contamination in the Buckley Road area of southern San Luis Obispo, where at least 11 wells have been found with high levels of the chemical since December.
The nearby San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is being investigated as a possible source of the TCE, or trichloroethylene, a chemical historically used as an industrial solvent and metal degreaser. Long-term exposure to TCE can cause liver and kidney damage and increase the risk of cancer.
The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is leading the investigation, will hold the meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at its offices at 895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101, San Luis Obispo.
Officials will discuss the status of the TCE investigation, provide an update on well sampling results and explain the health risks associated with TCE.
County health officials recommend that residents with contaminated wells use bottled water for drinking and cooking. They also recommend those residents to install carbon filtration systems at their wellheads, which effectively remove the contaminant. Information about filtration systems will be provided at the meeting.
The county Public Health Department announced Dec. 24 that contaminated wells had been discovered in the area of Buckley Road, east of Davenport Creek and Evans roads. The airport is considered a likely source of the pollution because TCE use is historically associated with aviation and fuel. The airport is uphill from the neighborhood with the polluted wells, so it’s possible that pollutants could flow downhill from the airport to the wells.
“To date, we have sampled 59 wells and have obtained 56 results,” said Thea Tryon, a site cleanup program manager with the water board. “Of the 56 sample results we have so far, 11 have TCE above the maximum contaminant level.”
A private law firm, Gomez Trial Attorneys of San Diego, conducted a separate investigation into the groundwater contamination and found 16 contaminated wells, said John Fiske, an attorney with the firm. The law firm and state water officials have not coordinated their investigations, so it is not known if any of those results are duplicates.
“We have been in touch with the Gomez Trial Attorneys, but they have not shared their well results — yet,” Tryon said. “We are planning to send our records, including well results, to them by the end of next week as they have requested.”