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Frog and rat remains found in Camp Pendleton water systems; base officials say water is safe to drink

A dead rodent is shown in the finished water of Reservoir 52698 in this June 30, 2017 photo, one of many problems in the water systems at Camp Pendleton, prompting action from the Environmental Protection Agency.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE U.S. MARINE CORPS

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 30, 2017

CAMP PENDLETON — Base officials say that despite water safety inspectors finding a host of chronic problems including the remains of a dead frog and rat in two of the bases’s systems, water is safe for consumption.

On Thursday, Sept. 28 Marine Corps officials and the Environmental Protection Agency entered into a federal consent order that requires base officials to adopt strict water quality standards or face significant fines.

As part of the agreement, base officials will inspect all 34 reservoirs over the next 180 days and will continue to monitor all water quality in their entire system. They must provide documentation within five days of inspection. The base will be required to submit a progress report, the first due Oct. 15.

“Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is committed to providing safe and compliant drinking water,” Carl Redding, a base spokesman, said in a statement Friday. “This is a duty and responsibility that we take very seriously. The EPA and state regulators agree the water was and is safe to drink. Camp Pendleton is committed to providing safe and compliant drinking water.”

The agreement follows a June inspection in which the animal remains were discovered in three reservoirs attached to two water systems that serve more than 55,000 Marines and their families on the base’s north and south ends. They also found hatch doors without sanitary seals, rust holes, loose nuts and bolts, reservoir mesh that let in spiders and overflow valves that leaked water.

Inspectors also reported a lack of supervision at the reservoirs and a shortage of qualified operators for treatment and distribution at both of its systems. They also found that the advanced water treatment plant had been periodically shut down and that operators were not completing required equipment testing.

Finally, inspectors found that operators did not regularly inspect, maintain, and document monitoring efforts, which resulted in foundational cracks and inadequate seals.

“Public water systems must meet all state and federal requirements to provide safe drinking water to their customers,” said Alexis Strauss, the EPA’s acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our priority is to ensure the base achieves compliance promptly, to serve those who live and work at Camp Pendleton.”

According to documents from the EPA that outlined the chronic failures, officials at the Marine base removed the animal remains and cleaned, refilled, and tested the reservoirs for bacteria and chlorine levels.

Base officials have agreed to conduct ongoing testing to make sure the water is safe to drink.

Under Thursday’s agreement, base officials must also inform the public about their ongoing compliance. This includes shutting down and inspecting all other base reservoirs over the next 180 days.

Should any of the samples test positive, USMC must issue a public notice and provide affected customers an alternative source of drinking water. Any reservoir found to be out of compliance will not be returned to service until after water safety inspectors have approved it.

Base officials have tested the three impacted reservoirs every two weeks for the past three months and they have come back safe and compliant, Redding said. Base officials have circulated a memo saying the water is safe, and that there is no need to boil water or take other precautions.

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©2017 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
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