May 27, 2008

Sen. Feinstein wants perchlorate polluters to pay

I really don't think this is going to get anywhere. Like most mass pollution cases one company will blame all the others nearby. Still no one at EPA is looking at the spent residue washed off the street after the "safe and sane" fireworks are used. That is a possible source of perchlorate contamination as well, at least in the coastal waters where we have all the other run off pollution problems. That is also not even mentioning the horrible air pollution problem for the days surrounding July 4th due to legal "personal use" fireworks. It seems people that peddle fireworks get a free pass on air pollution (due to its "fund raising" factor) while everyone else runs out and buys a Prius and gets compact florescent bulbs to save the air. Politics.

Senator on the alert
Feinstein wants suspected polluters to pay up now
Jason Pesick, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/25/2008 10:46:13 PM PDT

RIALTO - Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants companies suspected of polluting the city's groundwater to pay for safe drinking water while a final cleanup strategy is devised.

"Given that identifying and implementing a final remedy will likely take several years, it is appropriate for the responsible parties to assume the burden of providing clean drinking water in the interim," the influential California Democrat recently wrote in a letter to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

The water is contaminated with perchlorate, a chemical used to produce explosives like rocket fuel and fireworks.

"Seven years have gone by. The residents are squeezed to the limit," said Barry Groveman, a lawyer for the West Valley Water District, which provides almost all of the city's drinking water along with Rialto's water department.

The perchlorate and a toxic industrial cleaner have spread into underground water, though contaminated water is not served to residents. Perchlorate can interfere with the thyroid gland, which plays a role in metabolism and mental and physical development.

Rialto customers have a perchlorate surcharge on their water bills, and it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to operate the treatment systems.

Groveman said the suspected polluters - Rialto has identified more than 40 - will be less likely to employ creative delay tactics as the state and EPA try to make them clean up the contamination if they must pay to provide clean water in the meantime.

In March, Feinstein wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson saying the agency should order suspected polluters to provide replacement water.

The replacement water is particularly important as Rialto tries to build new residential developments that need water services, said Rialto City Councilman Ed Scott.

"We have to have drinking water for the city," he said.

EPA officials have said they would like to use their resources to develop a cleanup plan, not to fight for replacement water.

"It's a question of priority and a question of what they would accomplish," said Wayne Praskins, the EPA project manager assigned to Rialto.

On May 13, Feinstein sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a letter saying any settlement between state agencies and suspected polluters should include providing clean water.

The calls from Feinstein and Groveman for replacement water come amid rumors an agency is nearing completion of settlement talks with three of the suspected polluters.

The Riverside-based Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board is conducting the talks.

Kurt Berchtold, the board's assistant executive officer, would not comment on whether negotiators are seeking replacement water from the suspected polluters - Goodrich, the Black and Decker entity Emhart and Pyro Spectaculars.

But he did note that an earlier draft order from the board's staff included a call for replacement water at some wells.

Berchtold said he does not believe the board can order replacement water for wells contaminated with levels of perchlorate below the state standard of 6 parts per billion. Most of the West Valley wells are contaminated below that standard.

Groveman, the author of much of the relevant water code, did not concur.

"I respectfully disagree. These are more bureaucratic reasons not to do things," he said.

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