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Sentinel: Wonder Valley Chromium & Arsenic H2O Levels 1,000 Times Over Limit

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Mary Addison Hackett, Sweeping in Wonder Valley, Amboy Road, Wonder Valley, California, July 6, 2017. [Photo by Meg Madison

By Mark Gutglueck

October 30, 2017
The San Bernardino County Fire Department’s reflexive move to protect its firefighters in reaction to the discovery of well water contamination in Wonder Valley is raising the specter of a wider contamination hazard that represents a threat to the well-being of the community’s residents generally.
Indications are, however, that there is no county agency mandated with responsibility to safeguard residents and their drinking water supply in the face of the risk that has been identified.
Wonder Valley is an unincorporated community roughly 10 miles east of the City of Twentynine Palms and approximately 15 miles northeast of the east entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. The town lies south of the Sheep Hole Mountains and Bullion Mountains and north of the Pinto Mountains at an elevation range of 1,200 feet to 1,800 feet near the confluence of the higher-elevation Mojave Desert and the lower-elevation Colorado Desert. Both Amboy Road and State Route 62 run through Wonder Valley and exist as the community’s primary paved roads, with the vast majority of the community’s streets existing as dirt roads or ones that have been oiled and impacted. Wonder Valley boasts a population of some 650; some 3,000 recreational cabins and more permanent living structures built by homesteaders under the Small Tract Act, also known as the “Baby Homestead Act,” between 1938 and the mid-1960s, once dotted the landscape in the 150-square-mile area, though hundreds were demolished and removed as part of a clean-up effort over the last two decades. Most of these remaining structures, sometimes called “jackrabbit homesteads,” are vacant or abandoned. Wonder Valley lies within the county’s Third Supervisorial District, currently overseen by supervisor James Ramos.
Until 2005 the rural community managed on its own, with the augmentation funding due it from the state and county. For more than half of a century it fended for itself with regard to the provision of basic fire protection service, utilizing a paid call firefighting staff working out of its traditional Wonder Valley Fire Station. After the community voted to become a special county fire district tax zone, the volunteer fire department was subsumed by the county fire department a little more than a decade ago. The San Bernardino County Fire Department operated Station 45, located at 80526 Amboy Road, manned with both on-call firefighters and volunteers along with two professional, full-time firefighters, serving under the command of a county fire division commander, in this case Captain Mike Bilheimer, who was formerly a senior officer with the San Bernardino City Fire Department until that entity was annexed into the county fire division in 2015. Earlier this year, there was some concern that the county, as part of its budget for 2017-18, was going to close out the Wonder Valley Fire Station. When the first version of the county budget was released in May, it did not include funding for the Wonder Valley fire station. But county supervisors elected to maintain budgeting for the station after it was demonstrated that the call volume there justified its continuing operation.
In September, an analysis was done on water drawn from the well Station 45 uses. It was discovered that the water was contaminated with arsenic, hexavalent chromium and fluoride at levels approaching or exceeding 1,000 times the threshold deemed safe for human use and consumption. On September 22, the county shut the fire station down, relocating the crew, which at that time included battalion chief Mike Snow, to the Twentynine Palms fire station. The reason given was the threat to the health of the firefighters.
Reliable sources have indicated that testing done on other wells in Wonder Valley showed contamination levels consistent with that in the well used by the fire station for its water supply. The county fire division is said to be looking at how to redress the water contamination issue pertaining to the well utilized by Station 45, including putting a water filtering system into place at the fire station. It has not been established, however, that such a system will reduce the contaminant level sufficiently to render the water safe. At this point, a solution to the problem has eluded the county fire division and the fire station remains closed.
San Bernardino County Fire Department Public Information Officer Tracey Martinez told the Sentinel on Wednesday, “The San Bernardino County Fire Protection District relocated its Wonder Valley Fire Crew to a fire station in Twentynine Palms while the water hazards are being evaluated. This is due to the safety concern for the fire crew. If and when the water concern is mitigated, county fire will re-evaluate the use of Station 45 in Wonder Valley. Until such time, the fire crew will continue responding to calls for service in the Wonder Valley area from Twentynine Palms.”
The Sentinel learned on Wednesday that the situation with regard to water in Wonder Valley had been brought to the attention of a county special districts division manager as well as Jeff Rigney, the director of San Bernardino County Special Districts, which is the closest approximation to a governmental authority for the area, though the special districts division is not responsible for the water supply in Wonder Valley.
Information available to the Sentinel is that the water sample drawn from the well serving Fire Station 45, in addition to being contaminated with hexavalent chromium, fluoride and arsenic, was also contaminated with at least ten other toxic chemicals or elements.

Sentinel extended story




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Default Comments (31)

31 Responses to Sentinel: Wonder Valley Chromium & Arsenic H2O Levels 1,000 Times Over Limit

  1. larry briggs
    larry briggs October 30, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Is this the cause of Dan’s hernia?

    Reply
    • Dan OBrien October 30, 2017 at 11:10 am

      You know I’ll be soon back to normal Larry but there is not a God Damned thing we can do about your dementia

      I disagree with the Sentinel on this. We have done testing several wells in the area, including the Fire station and we find that the levels are far below the acceptable levels.

      If they would have asked Clarence Chambers they would have found this out. Any concern for the water can be put to rest with a residential RO System you can pick up from AMAZON for less than $200.00.

      This is a ruse to close down the Fire Station.

      Sometimes the Sentinel gets it wrong.

      Reply
  2. larry briggs
    larry briggs October 30, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Let the Sentinel know, as one journalist to another, that they are wrong on this.

    Reply
  3. Chancey Chambers October 30, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I have seen the chromium 6 results. Fire station tests at 14 ppb. The state standard is currently 30 ppb.

    Reply
    • Dan OBrien October 30, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      This is a case of even the Sentinel who for the most part checks it out is bamboozled by the Deep State. The County Fire is run by a sleazy group of money grubbers who want to close down stations at the risk of the taxpaying public. What we need is the DOJ to hire a Special Prosecutor to look in to the Shenanigans of the County fire.

      Reply
  4. larry briggs
    larry briggs October 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Do it then. Call DOJ. Just don’t blow steam.

    Reply
  5. Dan OBrien October 31, 2017 at 6:06 am

    Larry if assholes could fly you would have to be a Fokker.

    Reply
  6. larry briggs
    larry briggs October 31, 2017 at 8:43 am

    That’s a dumb response. But then consider the source. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Reply
    • Dan OBrien October 31, 2017 at 8:52 am

      I report it as I see it….. The key here is Report….. Larry we report the news… I stopped making the news years ago.

      Reply
  7. larry briggs
    larry briggs October 31, 2017 at 11:40 am

    The report is wrong. Chancey says so. As a concerned citizen tell Supervisor Ramos his results are not accurate. Be a concerned citizen, not just a guy who can spew venom and post pictures.

    Reply
  8. Dan OBrien October 31, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Right Back At you Larry…..

    Reply
  9. Dan OBrien October 31, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I am actually confused…. Larry remember is a constant antagonist of Branson who added this post…. now Larry defends what Branson has posted. Its not that big of a deal other than the Sentinel got it wrong….. Strange old fellow acts as though he or his butt buddy who got it wrong in the original post and was caught here with his pants down has to be defended.

    Trust me Larry the Sentinel will correct the story on their own…

    What we are now in is Bazzaro World… Where left is Right and Up is down.

    Reply
  10. larry briggs
    larry briggs October 31, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Chancey I believe. Do something positive for Wonder Valley.

    Reply
    • Steve Spear
      Steve Spear October 31, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      Okay, I will try one more time.

      Larry, What is different this time around with the Starbucks build as opposed to the last time Starbucks tried to build at the same location and it was turned down due to public safety concerns?

      Reply
      • larry briggs
        larry briggs November 1, 2017 at 9:00 am

        I don’t know. I wasn’t around for the previous application

        Reply
        • Branson Hunter
          Branson Hunter November 1, 2017 at 9:32 am

          Larry, As a 29 Planning Commissioner it’s okay to answer the question asked of you relating to public safety. Was the Starbucks safety issue at that site the last time the then council dealt with it discussed by the PC? You were around this time.

          Your response evades the question, hides the ball. Be a leader. Don’t obfuscate the issue and shortchange public safety.

          The general voting public is tired of hide-the-ball public officials like you (nothing personal). Can you act like a public servant.

          Reply
          • larry briggs
            larry briggs November 1, 2017 at 9:45 am

            We discussed traffic flow out of Cholla and the dangers of attempting a left turn into Hwy 62. from Cholla.

        • Steve Spear
          Steve Spear November 3, 2017 at 6:38 am

          Very in depth answer. Glad, that you as a public representative took the time and effort to compare the plans of years ago that were denied with the plans of today.

          Is there a match? I am sure you have looked at both proposals what is DIFFERENT Larry if anything at all?

          Reply
          • larry briggs
            larry briggs November 3, 2017 at 8:58 am

            We are dealing with the here and now. Not ancient history. Things have changed from when you were on the council.

  11. Branson Hunter
    Branson Hunter November 1, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Anyone wanting to reach the Sentinel to ask for an update on the story to correct the chromium levels that are in dispute can do below:

    Mark Gutglueck, Publisher
    Call (951) 567-1936
    10808 Foothill Blvd., Suite 160-446
    Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
    SBCSentinel@yahoo.com
    Legal Noiice Department 909 957 9998
    Message Line 909-276 5796

    I think Mark’s sources fed him a line of one-sided propaganda.

    BTW, What a world series! Game at 6:00 tonight. Any wining team is a win. Hope Dodgers win. I’m predicting 4-3 Dodgers win.

    Reply
  12. Steve spear
    Steve spear November 3, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    Thought so….you have not compared the plans.

    Reply
  13. larry briggs
    larry briggs November 5, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Tell us what the differences between the two are since you seem to know the answer.

    Reply
  14. Steve Spear
    Steve Spear November 5, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    You are an JACK ASS. I tried to ask you, nicely, as a citizen, not a council member, what the difference between the two plans are.

    You the go into the spin zone and do not answer.

    You are useless because you do not do your research and expect everyone else to look facts up for you.

    Do us all a favor and take your useless comments to the Desert Trail where nothing of substance is ever published.

    In fact if I can I will delete all your posts in the future that do not answer questions that you are asked as a public servant.

    Reply
  15. larry briggs
    larry briggs November 6, 2017 at 9:33 am

    It’s a shame you never come to any planning commission (or city council) meetings. You could express your views, ask questions and contribute to the city’ future. But no, you just rant and rave in this outlet. It’s obvious you have nothing to contribute..

    Reply
    • Steve Spear
      Steve Spear November 6, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      If you can recall I did come to the council meetings after my two terms were up.

      I was met with disrespect and condescending remarks from Cole, Klink. and Mintz.

      I was met with total silence from the city attorney when questioned about where property taxes actually go after he had inculcated the council to believe our local property taxes went to Sacramento which was then and is now a totally provable LIE!

      No thanks Larry I will avoid all the shenanigans at council meetings.

      I had higher hopes for you as being a representative that would communicate with even the most caustic of citizens.

      Cleary, based on the totality of your responses over the years, I was egregiously wrong about you.

      Reply
  16. Branson Hunter
    Branson Hunter November 6, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Hi Steve,

    We all understand that Larry is trolling. You elegantly put his reluctance to discuss anything into perspective. Larry is a fine example of an appointed crony who is not comfortable with transparency, a disciple of A. Patrick Munoz, who, over the years, thwarted the free speech of local elected and appointed officials in the way they directly avoid council or PC business with the public. Cora was the exception. Larry’s HO-HUM and disrespectful manner in which he deals with the public is in furtherance of the Muñoz Doctrine.

    Reply
  17. Steve Spear
    Steve Spear November 14, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    To our many readers.

    Larry Briggs is a total failure as an appointed representative of the people.

    He will not answer questions and when asked to produce facts he belittles those that ask the questions and provides one line answers similar to the Three Stooges of which he represents – Klink, Cole, and Mintz.

    As a former Marine Larry is a disgrace to the term Marine.

    He has no honor as I see it.

    He is a lap dog which is an anathema to the term Marine.

    Reply
  18. larry briggs
    larry briggs November 15, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Adios amigo.

    Reply
  19. Steve Spear
    Steve Spear November 15, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Agreed and I thank you are gone.

    Next move is to remove you from public office.

    Reply
  20. Branson Hunter
    Branson Hunter November 21, 2017 at 6:43 am

    I’ll answer your question Steve. I believe I was at the PC meeting in question when they discussed the complications of STARBUCKS and a 4-way stoplight and obvious dangers to traffic and pedestrians — and they failed to mention the issues staff and the council dealt with in the past in terms of safety issues and a STARBUCKS at Four Corners. All talk was very, very, very, very, very general.

    The safety issues were purposely NOT discussed (but for mentioning that there were safety concerns with no mention of what there were/are.

    Things are worked-out outside of meetings. Booze Drug Dealer Mintz loves secrecy. He did not like the council openly discussing the mandate to convert to ward-neighborhood elections. He protested during open meeting Tuesday bout too much transparency. What a lousy deal MINTZ turned out to be.

    Reply
  21. Steve Spear
    Steve Spear November 23, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks Branson,

    I thought that was the case when Larry could not answer a very simple inquiry on my part.

    I have thought about what I posted about Larry over the days and I stick by it.

    He was only posting on this blog to be a foil for the rest of us that actually care and inquire about matters that we think have import.

    Personally I am glad he is no longer posting.

    Reply

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