August 23, 2007

Perchlorate hearings delayed

Marchers Label Polluters ‘Public Enemy #1'
Thursday, 23 August 2007

By Chris Levister

Braving the scorching heat, dozens of angry residents and members of the Riverside-based Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice marched and rallied down Foothill Boulevard Tuesday demanding that polluters clean up water contamination.

Tuesday was supposed to be the first day of state hearings to determine if three companies should have to clean the chemical perchlorate from drinking water wells that serve thousands of Rialto and Colton residents. On Friday the group learned a Los Angeles judge issued a temporary stay to stop the hearings - thus postponing the proceedings - for the fifth time.

"We are shocked and alarmed that addressing this environmental disaster has been delayed through legal tactics by these polluters," said Jan Misquez, staff member of CCAEJ.

For nearly three years the group has been working to raise awareness on the issue of groundwater contamination by Goodrich, Black and Decker and PyroSpectacular.

The companies accused of the contamination all operated on the 160-acre industrial site used since World War II on the north end of the city.

"The state's inability to get these hearings off the starting block, leave us wondering who is protecting us? Who can we count on to protect our families?" said CCAEJ executive director Penny Newman.

Newman called the polluters "environmental terrorists" and called on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to assemble a task force to order the companies to clean up the mess.

"Justice delayed is justice denied. What do we want - clean water now," protesters chanted in English and Spanish.

The show of blue and white placards demanding clean up was dotted with WANTED posters embossed with photographs of the heads of the three companies accused of being responsible for the pollution. The signs labeled them "Public Enemy #1."

Newman lamented that with each postponement the plume of chemicals flowing south toward Colton and west toward Fontana endangers thousands of families. She said Rialto residents have paid $10 million in perchlorate surcharges since 2004.

Perchlorate is used in the production of explosives, including rocket fuel and fireworks. The chemical affects the thyroid gland, which controls growth, development and metabolism.

Rialto estimates it will cost $300 million to clean up the pollution. Perchlorate was discovered in the city's water supply in 1997. Newman said the latest postponement of 62 days will cause the city to lose another 800 million gallons of fresh drinking water.

"If necessary we will take this protest to Sacramento and beyond. We've got an environmental disaster on our hands. You can expect to see more pressure on elected officials."

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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