It's been 10 years since perchlorate was found to be contaminating the groundwater in Rialto and Colton, and still, little has been accomplished in getting the suspected polluters to pay for the cleanup.
Though the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board has accused three corporations and the county of leaking or dumping the chemical into the groundwater, not to mention Rialto's and Colton's lawsuits naming an assortment of defendants, it has been unsuccessful at getting the issue resolved.
Though the tainted water is not being served to local residents and the county - which was not responsible for the original contamination but bought land tainted by the chemical - has begun the cleanup to safeguard local wells, it is a major, costly headache that nags on year after year. At least 22 wells in Rialto, Colton and Fontana have been fouled with the chemical that threatens thyroid function, and several have been shut down.
Aggravated at the regional board's lack of progress - as we all are - as the perchlorate plume continues to push southeastward, the state Water Resources Control Board has shoved aside the local agency and plans to hold a hearing at the earliest possible date.
At long last, accountability may be at hand. And, we would hope, some definitive action.
The local board has long pressed Goodrich Corp., Emhart Industries Inc. and Pryo Spectaculars Inc. to take responsibility, to no avail. Goodrich has paid $4 million so far, but it has been just a drop in the bucket compared with the anticipated $200 million to $300 million total cost of wellhead treatment and cleanup.
Further stalling the effort, Emhart, a subsidiary of Black & Decker Corp., has lodged bias charges against the regional board, though it has as yet paid nothing toward the cleanup.
So now, the state board has decided to hear the issue. And we'd have to agree, it looks to be the quickest, and we hope the most effective, way to go.
For his part, the state agency's acting executive director, Thomas Howard, has made it his goal to reach a decision that will be "bullet proof" and not lead to years of court battles. We can only hope that turns out to be the case.
Over the last decade, as the suspected polluters have balked at accepting responsibility for the cleanup, perchlorate has continued to creep from Rialto's north end toward Colton - about on a par with the crawling pace of justice. It's about time the state stepped in and forced those liable for the mess to pay their share.
BS Ranch Perspective:
It is about time that both sides of this fight come together and decide that it is not worth the pricey fight of going to court and wanting to try to force a settlement, when the people that are responsible for the contamination are willing to be part of the solution right from the beginning!
I am glad that they finally shut Rialto City Attorney Owen's Down on his Unpopular, and very costly court battle that would have made no sense when they are willing to clean the mess up to begin with!