A cancer-causing toxic wood preservative found at the site of a defunct lumber mill in the Glendale area has a state agency looking into whether chemicals could seep into the nearby Mad River and affect local drinking water.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control certified the site in 1998, placing a concrete cap over soil that might have been contaminated. But in late December, the department announced it had determined rising groundwater is contaminated with a toxic chemical, prompting a change in plans.

The chemical, pentachlorophenol, was used in pesticides for logging practices until its ban in 1984. According to the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the chemical was listed in 1990 as a carcinogen under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Meanwhile, the mill went out of business in 2002, and state taxpayers have funded chemical monitoring at the site ever since.

DTSC project manager Henry Wong said his team is still weighing options on how to proceed.

“It’s not like you won’t be able to drink the water next week,” said Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, a local nonprofit that works to protect coastal resources. “But it’s something we really need to keep an eye on and make sure (DTSC) does the best job possible with, instead of cutting any corners.”

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