The Environmental Protection Agency, one of the parties in the suit to clean the B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site, announced Wednesday that it had made an agreement with Emhart Industries, Pyro Spectaculars and others it considers responsible for perchlorate and trichloroethylene that caused the closure of drinking wells in Rialto and Colton.
"We now have a commitment from companies to fund the cleanup and the companies - the parties - rather than the residents of Rialto or Colton or the federal government are paying for cleanup work at the site," said Wayne Praskins, the EPA's project manager for the site. "It also helps ensure a safe, dependable supply of drinking water for residents in the area."
The agreement, filed Tuesday, gives responsibility for the first portion of cleanup to Emhart Industries, which bought a company that reportedly released perchlorate - a chemical that may disrupt the thyroid's ability to produce hormones needed for normal growth - as it manufactured flares and other pyrotechnics during the 1950s at the Rialto site.
Emhart and other settling parties - the Defense Department and more than six companies - will pay whatever that costs, estimated at $43million. Rialto and Colton will split $8million, with Rialto getting slightly more, according to attorney Danielle Sakai of Best Best & Krieger in Riverside, who represents Colton in the suit.
That will cover 30 years of designing, building and operating groundwater wells, treatment systems and other equipment that will first stop the spread of perchlorate and trichloroethylene - TCE, an industrial cleaning solvent that may damage the nervous system, liver and lungs if ingested or breathed, according to the agreement.
"The cleanup will probably continue for decades because the science of groundwater is once pollutants get into the groundwater, it takes a long time to get them out," Praskins said. "Once the cleanup facilities are built and start operating, at that point we will have stopped any further spread.
"That's our short-term goal. The goal is to clean it up to the point that water can be used at some point in the future without having to clean it further."
Rialto and Colton, which had sued the companies in 2004, joined the agreement and called it a large victory that would lead to others.
"This is a long, hard fight that was all about getting clean drinking water for Colton residents," said Sakai. "This is something that has been going on for a long time, and we're pleased that we're working our way toward a resolution."
The agreement follows another in March that requires payment of a combined $4.3million to the EPA by Pyro Spectaculars Inc. and other companies.
The EPA initially listed five parties - Emhart, PSI, Ken Thompson Inc., Chung Ming Wong and B.F. Goodrich - as responsible for decades of potentially hazardous waste dumped at the site when it made it eligible for federal funding by adding it to the EPA National Priorities List in 2009.
B.F. Goodrich is the largest company that still has not made an agreement, but negotiations are in the "details" phase and should be finalized within months, Praskins said.
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