Jason Pesick SB Sun Staff Writer
RIALTO - About 50 residents and local officials showed up to a meeting at City Hall on Friday night to hear about the city's perchlorate contamination problem and what is being done to clean it up.
Perchlorate is a chemical that can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland, causing development and metabolic problems. Perchlorate is used in the production of explosives, such as fireworks, flares and rocket fuel.
Despite fears that the meeting would turn into a political slugfest in which city officials would attack San Bernardino County officials, the meeting remained calm.
Although one of the city's attorney's, Christian Carrigan, complained about the county's role in a lawsuit the city has filed against it, the U.S. Department of Defense and 40 corporations, city officials remained collegial.
Gerard Thibeault, the executive officer of the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the board will hold hearings at the end of the year to determine what role a number of corporations played in the water contamination and what those corporations should do to clean up the contamination.
City leaders called the meeting earlier this week and drew complaints from local officials and perchlorate experts because of the last-minute notice.
Councilmen Ed Scott (cmcq) and Joe Sampson (cmcq) released a letter to the community that listed local officials as invited guest speakers at the meeting. However, the invited guest speakers did not receive an invitation prior to receiving the letter, which was addressed to Rialto residents.
Some officials had plans to be out of town for the holiday weekend and said they wondered why a meeting about a serious topic would be scheduled for the Friday night before Labor Day.
City and county officials scheduled a meeting for this past Tuesday to discuss the city's lawsuit. The meeting lasted only minutes before dissolving into bickering.
On Thursday, county Supervisor Josie Gonzales (cmcq), who was at Friday's meeting, sent a letter addressed to Rialto Mayor Grace Vargas and to the City Council asking for the city's cooperation in dealing with the perchlorate contamination.
In the letter, Gonzales lays out two conditions for having another meeting. The first is that city and county officials agree on the meeting's format. At the last meeting, there was a dispute as to whether it was a public or private meeting.
Gonzales also writes that the city must sign a memorandum of understanding relating to the use of federal funds to clean up the contamination.