March 4, 2007

Rialto officials report progress on perchlorate

10:00 PM PST on Monday, February 26, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

About 30 residents of Rialto and the surrounding area were told Monday of two developments in the flight to clean up perchlorate contamination in water wells.

The long-awaited hearing to determine blame for the Inland region's most significant water-pollution case will be held in Rialto starting March 28, city attorney Bob Owen announced to the audience at a town hall meeting in Rialto.

The hearing could lead to the cleanup of an underground plume of perchlorate several miles long.

Owen also announced that a plan outlining options on cleaning the plume of contamination and the source area has been completed.

Now, the city wants to involve the community in the decision-making process of what remediation efforts will be chosen, who will pay for them and how much it's going to cost, Owen said.

"This is what we will be taking to court, to the upcoming hearing, to the Regional Water Quality Control Board and to state and federal officials that represent us," Owen said.

A link to the city's Web site will be added in coming weeks soliciting community views on the issue, he said.

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 newborns are considered most at risk.

Residents were reassured after expressing concern that the city's water is safe to drink.

"You're pretty much safer than the average consumer in California when it comes to water because of the council's zero-tolerance policy," Owen said.

Under the city's policy, if a well tests positive for detectible levels of perchlorate, it is taken out of service. The well's water won't be placed back into the city's water system unless it is outfitted with treatment equipment and the water tests -- using state-approved methods -- do not detect perchlorate.

Councilman Ed Scott said he wants to hire a medical expert on perchlorate to learn about all possible medical side effects of the chemical and to see if anyone in the area is affected.

Philip McCririe, a Rialto resident, said he is glad to see that city officials are concerned about the water contamination and are making progress.

"It's very bureaucratic, but I'm happy it's moving forward," he said.

Reach Massiel Ladrón De Guevara at 909-806-3054 or

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