Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is Perchlorate Cleanup Slipping from our Grasp? (Daily Bulletin 090306) Guest Columnest, Josie Gonzales, District Five Supervisor

Is perchlorate cleanup slipping from our grasp?
JOSIE GONZALES, Guest Columnist

In spite of what you may have been told about Tuesday's unproductive meeting between the County of San Bernardino and the city of Rialto, I have stayed focused on what is important – the containment and cleanup of perchlorate contamination in Rialto's groundwater.

The city has sued the county and about 40 other parties who city leaders claim have polluted the city's water. The city's filing of a lawsuit before state environmental enforcement agencies have assigned responsibility for the perchlorate contamination cleanup presents two major problems:

• While the parties argue over who may owe what in monetary damages to the city, the eastern plume of perchlorate pollution flows steadily toward more drinking water wells and the Santa Ana River.

• And, by whipping up everyone into a litigious frenzy, the city has made it more difficult for the State Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Ana Region, to secure the cooperation of the potentially responsible parties to investigate the extent of the contamination and develop solutions to contain it.

While I disagree with the city's strategy, I acknowledge its right to pursue it. However, I cannot wait for the lawsuit to solve the problem. Lawsuits take years and millions of dollars to resolve. The residents of Rialto and Colton do not have that kind of time or money.

City wells have been shut down because of two perchlorate plumes originating in the north end of the Rialto-Colton Basin. The county is working to contain the western plume of perchlorate in the Rialto-Colton Basin. We have accepted responsibility for cleaning up this plume, because a private aggregate mining operation on county-owned land flushed perchlorate out of the soil near the Mid-Valley Sanitary Landfill.

The county has fully cooperated with the State Regional Board. We have spent roughly $7 million during the past four years investigating the contamination flushed by the mining operation and to construct a treatment facility to stop its advancement. The county-built treatment facility at the Rialto Airport started delivering clean drinking water to Rialto residents in early June.

The county plans to spend at least $3 million more to expand the treatment facility. And, we will likely spend more than $500,000 per year to operate that treatment facility.

As a result of the county's proactive measures, the perchlorate pollution from the private mining operation has not affected the city drinking water supply. In addition as a responsible neighbor, the county reimburses the city for water the city has to import because of the perchlorate contamination.

I'm not sure why the city believes the county owes it another $6 million when we've already done so much to clean up perchlorate. Unfortunately, during our meeting Tuesday, Councilman Ed Scott chose to focus on disruptive, unrelated issues rather than explain how the county has damaged the city.

I will not pay the attorney's fees for the five law firms the city has hired. The city chose to sue the county a year and a half after the county started its investigation and cleanup measures and a year after the county accepted a cleanup order from the State Regional Board. The city did not need to sue the county.

I have offered to meet with city leaders again about their lawsuit if they demonstrate a commitment to contain and clean up perchlorate. I have asked that they sign a memorandum of understanding regarding the pursuit of federal funds for the perchlorate contamination cleanup by Sept. 14. This shouldn't be difficult as the City Council approved the MOU back on March 21.

The county, cities of Rialto and Colton, West Valley Water District and Fontana Water worked for nearly a year to draft an Initial 5-Year Groundwater Cleanup Approach white paper. The city demanded the MOU, which every other party has now signed, except Rialto. The city's failure to sign its own MOU calls into question the sincerity of its leaders' stated commitment to protect Rialto residents from the cost of the perchlorate contamination cleanup and provide them with clean drinking water.

Our local congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., has made it repeatedly clear to all of us that we will only continue to receive federal funding or be given future consideration if the group stays united. Sen. Feinstein and Congressman Baca were successful in getting authorized this year a $25 million fund for groundwater cleanup in the Santa Ana River watershed and Santa Clara County. We must be ready to submit a joint grant application as soon as funding is appropriated to the program.

If Rialto is not on board, I must know now so that I can start working to secure funds without the city.

I will not have the important cleanup work held up any longer by the city's baseless demand for a $6 million payment.

– Supervisor Josie Gonzales represents the 5th District of San Bernardino County, which includes south Fontana, Rialto and Colton.

We here at the BS Ranch Look thought the Report to see what we can come up with on our thoughts. It seems that I have a few of my own reading this peace by Josie. I have never met Josie Gonzales, and I have to say I felt out of fairness of Politics I would sign the recall Petition that went around against her, again Not knowing but what I read about her and what was said at the table by first hand witnesses or they claimed to be witnesses to Josie's Altercation with one of the people that used to run the Muscoy MAC. I felt the leadership that she displayed was a little like that of someone that was a little bit to much bossy, in the area, I know people that live in Muscoy and you cannot treat them the way that she treated them. Anyway, getting back to the Rialto and Perchlorate.
It seems that the Lawyer might be leading the fight or the ear of Council Member Ed Scott, See I have this feeling that the Rialto City Attorney Owens is thinking that if he can get the County or the Federal Government in the Court Room he will win the money needed to clean the Six Wells that are in Rialto, that are of need of clean up of the Perchlorate. The Thing that concerns me and that concern those who live in the City of Rialto is that are the city Council Member's considering me or the money that it would cost. Which is more important, me or the cancer that I would be catching??
If it was me, and I was leading the city, I would do every thing I could do to clean up those wells, I would look into Federal grants, I would work with the County, the West Valley Water District, the East Valley Water District, and see what they could do for me, and what kind of grants have they heard of! That is what I would be doing. THE COURTS WOULD BE THE FURTHEST THING FROM MY MIND!!
Now what Josie is writing here is frustration! She is frustrated with the city of Rialto, it seems that they have been trying to work with the city of Rialto in anyway that they can,but the city seems to want the county to foot the bill for the problem.
Owens?? OWENS. let me tell you about Owens. he should be gone by now. I felt after the losses that he had between the County and the City Police Union/City Public that he should be gone, but he is not. Why?? That question is waiting to be answered by this BLOGGER, at the BSRanch? Owens is such a great Attorney he had taken the Rialto Public "Voice United" and the "RPBA" (Rialto Police Benefit Assoc.) to court three times, three times they had been to curt on the Vote to go to the Sheriff's Department from the 70+ year old Rialto Police Department. There was a Court Order stating that they could not Make a Contract with the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department until a few things were met. regarding the Clarification of the MOU (City's Charter or Rules of Operation or Modus Operandi).
Just before they went before the attorney, Owens had hired a Man from Sacramento Flew him to San Bernardino, Put him up in a Motel, and had him testify in court that the method that the Voice United/RPBA were using to gather signatures for their petitions were Illegal!! Owens Argument was that the signature gatherers didn't live in the city of Rialto and that was in clear violation of the law and all signatures that were obtained by these individuals should not be allowed as good signatures.
This was done during a council meeting and he used Visual Aids, as to keep the people that were watching at home interested in what he had to say, even though it was the most boring speech I had to hear! I sat through it at the Council meeting. The highlight was when the Lawyer representing the RPBA/Voice United Raised his hand to speak and indicated how good of a lawyer he was, since several times during this three hour speech that Owens did he had put down the Lawyer hired by the Police Union. However Owens failed to say that he had LOST EVERY PREVIOUS TIME THAT HE WAS IN FRONT OF A JUDGE, AND THE ATTORNEY FOR THE RPBA/VOICE UNITED STATED A GUARANTEE HE WOULD WIN THE FORTH TIME!!.
Now Owens Stated that he doubted that he would lose since he had this secret weapon from Sacramento, the man that was used, and consulted with to look at the Voting Laws reference the Recall of Gray Davis.
The Fourth time in front of the Judge came on that Friday, and Owens brought his high Paid Attorney!! All Paid for by the city! They had the court room adjourned and they were in hearing for approximately ten minutes and Owens went on to Lose that case too, even with his high Paid Lawyer who was an Expert on Voting Law!! The Judge didn't like the back door tactic that was being displayed to untimely rid a city of a well respected Police Department without Proper Review!! There for, he forced them to take the time to make that proper review.
I have to say that Voice United, Chaired by a Disabled Rialto Police Sgt. whom was Disabled from an Off duty Off Road Quad Motorcycle Accident. He used paid Signature Gathering People that are used all the time by signature gathering People all the time, You run into them all the time outside of Wal-Marts or Rit-Aid's and the like. Now I cannot remember if it was 2300 signatures or 3200 signatures that was needed, but they gathered 4900 signatures, just under 5000 for the City Charter Change to make it a City Wide Vote Rather then a City Council Vote only to change the Law Enforcement Protection for the city. well when the signatures were turned in they were reviewed by the City Clerk Barbara McGee. Barbara, more then likely taking the advice from the city Attorney Owens said that there was approximately 3000 or so signatures that were not gathered by a person that was eligible to gather signatures in the city of rialto.
Now, I myself have gather signatures in the city of Rialto, and The city of Fontana on the same sheet, so I know that the Form that he had what ever he was reading he was Ill-advised. completely wrong in this, and he tied the forms up stating this. People on the out side of the city were at the council meetings asking for a second opinion and there was no second opinion to be given right away, they went by their over paid Under Educated Lawyers advice who to this day will point the finger to Barbara McGee and say it was all up to her, in stead of himself. Now she is an Elected Official and has ran Unopposed for years, but she could have someone want her job because of what this attorney advised her!!
Owens makes approximately $750K a year, I cannot say how the city is getting their money's worth!!
Then maybe they would get the County and the Federal Government on their side to help them clean it the rest of the way!! But starting by fighting anyone and anything is just the wrong way to get anything done!!

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