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UPDATE: $50M settlements for water supply contamination

Posted: December 5, 2012 1:00 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2012 7:09 p.m.

Settlements worth $50 million have been reached with companies that produced and stored fireworks, munitions and rocket motors at a Southern California industrial site where the water supply became contaminated, federal authorities said Wednesday.

The two settlements involve cleanup of contamination from the 160-acre B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site in Rialto, the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department said.

Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, reflected on the news, saying Rialto officials took a page from Santa Clarita Valley officials who sued Whittaker Corporation over the badly contaminated Whittaker-Bermite property, a long-standing local munitions testing field.

“We sued and came away with $100 million settlement for water containment,” Masnada said Wednesday.

The settlement paid by insurance companies representing Whittaker provides funds over 30 years, he said, earmarked for the specific purpose of containment and treatment of water for percholorate contamination.

After more than 65 years of manufacturing firms lighting up the sky over the Santa Clarita Valley with explosives — from dynamite made in the 1930s to rocket fuel made in the ’80s — cleanup of about 1,000 acres on the Whittaker-Bermite property remains ongoing, monitored by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Wednesday’s news out of Rialto is reminiscent of local perchlorate concerns and dealings with Whittaker, Masnada said.

“For decades, the defendants have been polluting this critical source of drinking water with both perchlorate and industrial solvents,” EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld said in a statement. “Today’s historic settlement ensures that the impacted communities in Southern California will finally have their drinking water sources restored.”

The EPA, San Bernardino County and the cities of Rialto and Colton had sued Pyro Spectaculars Inc. and others suspected of dumping or burning toxic chemicals in pits at the site about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

The cities, as well as water districts not involved in the lawsuits, shut down 20 contaminated wells and installed treatment equipment after the pollution was discovered in 1997.

“After decades of harmful groundwater contamination and following protracted and costly litigation, the parties ... have agreed to a comprehensive long-term plan to clean up the contaminated groundwater at the site,” Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno said in a statement.

The dozen settling parties in Wednesday’s announcement include Emhart Industries and Pyro Spectaculars.

The Emhart settlement also includes Black & Decker Inc., American Promotional Events Inc., the Department of Defense, the Ensign-Bickford Company, Raytheon, the Whittaker Corp., Broco Inc., and J. S. Brower & Associates Inc.

Emhart will perform the first part of the cleanup, which will cost an estimated $43 million over the next 30 years to design. It will also build and operate groundwater wells, treatment systems and other equipment needed to clean up the contaminated groundwater at the site.

More than $4 million will be paid by Pyro Spectaculars and five others, including defunct PSI subsidiary Astro Pyrotechnics, Trojan Fireworks, Thomas O. Peters and related trusts; and Stonehurst Site LLC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.






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