Thursday, April 05, 2007

Governor Asked to Turn Up Pressure on Perchloreate Clean Up in Rialto

Governor asked to turn up pressure on perchlorate cleanup in Rialto

08:01 AM PST on Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

Video: Rialto residents demand cleanup of perchlorate contamination

Survey: Should Gov. Schwarzenegger declare a state of emergency in Rialto because of perchlorate contamination in the groundwater?

RIALTO - A group of residents wants the governor to declare a state of emergency in Rialto because perchlorate contamination in the city's groundwater supply is endangering residents' health.

Officials with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and about 40 residents also demanded during a protest Friday that the State Water Resources Control Board force polluters to clean up the contamination and reimburse residents for cleanup costs they have incurred.

A hearing set for March 23 to determine which companies are responsible for a mileslong underground plume of perchlorate was delayed after the hearing officer resigned. The hearing also would have forced cleanup of the plume, believed to have been generated by defense contractors in the 1950s and '60s.

"Enough is enough. We are tired of all the delays," said Sujatha Jahagirdar, clean-water advocate for Environment California. "The state water board must issue a full cleanup order that requires every drop of contamination to be cleaned and to provide safe water to residents until it is done."

Perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel and fireworks, has contaminated six Rialto water wells. It is believed that the chemical interferes with thyroid function and brain development. Human fetuses and newborn children are considered most at risk.

Davin Diaz, of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice in San Bernardino, said the goal is to have Gov. Schwarzenegger make Rialto's water a top priority and apply pressure on the state water board to move quickly.

But Rialto officials would have to declare a local state of emergency before the governor could issue a declaration, said Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Because there is no request from Rialto officials, it is difficult to assess the situation, Lamoureux said.

Councilman Ed Scott said he will be in Sacramento on Thursday to ask the state water board to hold hearings on Rialto's perchlorate problem.

City officials have no plans to declare a local state of emergency, he said.

Maria Harrada, a five-year Rialto resident, said she wants the contamination cleaned up so she won't have to worry about her children drinking tap water.

"It doesn't seem fair that we are paying to clean a mess we didn't make and that those responsible aren't paying," Harrada said during a protest at one of the first wells where perchlorate was found nearly 10 years ago.

Rialto residents are charged a $6.85 flat fee for perchlorate cleanup on their water bills. An additional charge is assessed based on consumption.

Councilman Joe Baca Jr. said the city plans to reimburse residents once cleanup funding becomes available from the responsible parties.

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