10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, April 17, 2007
By JENNIFER BOWLES
A hearing to determine those responsible for the Inland region's most significant water pollution problem has been delayed once again.
Tam Doduc, chairman of the State Water Resources Control Board, postponed the hearing for two months to give attorneys more time to file rebuttals. The hearing's aim is to assign blame and cleanup responsibility for a massive underground plume of perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient linked to thyroid ailments, that has tainted 16 wells in Rialto and Colton.
The hearing, which was set to begin May 8, will now start July 9 and run an additional five days through the month, said William L. Rukeyser, a spokesman for the state water board. The hearing will be held in the Rialto area, Rukeyser said.
Regional water-quality officials, who have been investigating the case, say they believe the lengthy plume was mainly caused by three companies that have used a 160-acre industrial lot in northern Rialto. Pyro Spectaculars Inc., a fireworks company, currently uses the site. Two defense contractors -- Goodrich Corp. and Emhart, which is a subsidiary of Black and Decker -- used the site in the 1950s and 1960s. All three companies have denied any role in the pollution.
Community activists said they were disappointed to see another delay.
"As long as there is no cleanup plan, the water supply to the residents is in danger," said Davin Diaz, who is with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. "We were all looking forward to some type of closure, and it just keeps feeling like it's dragging on."
Rukeyser said the agency wants all parties to have a chance to present and defend their case so there will be no grounds to appeal any decision reached by the state board.
"We as well want an expeditious conclusion to this process," he said. "But, we also want to make sure that there are no arguments or claims that anybody was in any way deprived of due process."
Reach Jennifer Bowles at 951-368-9548 or jbowles@PE.com
April 21, 2007