Old barrels containing chemicals have been discovered on land owned by the Panoche Water District in western Fresno County and are being tested to see if there is anything dangerous that should be removed, the agency said Thursday.
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control said it is investigating the find, but released no details.
Construction workers found the barrels on property the district owns in the area of West Althea and North Oxford avenues. Most of the barrels are above ground, the district said.
The district has hired a company to identify the contents and remove anything dangerous, district board president John Bennett said.
“At this point, we do not believe anything stored in the barrels is outside of the ordinary chemicals used by the district in its operations, and the initial laboratory tests indicate some of the chemicals are those routinely used in the treatment of water,” Bennett said.
We do not believe anything stored in the barrels is outside of the ordinary chemicals used by the district in its operations…
John Bennett, Panoche Water District
Panoche Water District supplies irrigation water to farms and limited domestic water, and operates a small water treatment plant. It covers 38,000 acres in Fresno and Merced counties.
The site where the barrels were found is part of a storage area used over many years and is far from buildings, the district said. The construction being done is part of an effort to clean up the area and improve the property.
Panoche has been in the news recently for other reasons. A scathing report released in January by the state Controller’s Office said the small entity was guilty of “egregious lack of spending oversight” of funds.
Interest-free loans were made to employees, some got free housing without it being reported as compensation, and some were allowed to use district credit cards for personal purchases without adequate controls or reimbursement collection processes, the Controller’s Office said.
However, the district has taken “substantial corrective action” to improve accounting, the Controller’s Office said.