San Gabriel Basin Authority Files Superfund Lawsuit to Recover Cleanup Costs

Dec. 28, 2000
COVINA, Calif. -- The San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority (WQA) announced that it has filed suit in federal court against Aerojet-General Corporation to recover the costs of a new groundwater cleanup plant in the Baldwin Park area. The action is the first such lawsuit filed by the agency under the federal Superfund law, which requires those responsible for contamination to pay for the cleanup and permits lawsuits to recover the costs. Four areas of the San Gabriel Valley Basin were placed on the federal Superfund list in 1984. Aerospace giant Aerojet-General has been identified by state and federal authorities as one of the largest responsible parties whose waste discharges decades ago contributed to groundwater pollution in the basin. "One way or another, the polluters will pay for the cleanup," said Bob Kuhn, WQA president. "The WQA has promoted partnerships in which responsible parties have come forward and voluntarily agreed to pay cleanup costs. But Aerojet did not come to terms with us for much needed cleanup facility. This is in an area where groundwater pollution has spread at an alarming rate and so the WQA and its partners on this project moved forward using their own funds." The action, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks reimbursement from Aerojet for WQA's share of the construction and operation costs of the La Puente Well Field Treatment Project. The $4.6 million La Puente project, which is nearing full operation, was funded by a partnership that includes the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster, the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, the La Puente Valley County Water District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The WQA has asked all of the funding partners to join them in this lawsuit. To date, the WQA has incurred costs of more than $1.56 million in connection with construction of the La Puente Project, and it is projected to have continuing operation and maintenance costs estimated at $150,000 per year. Authority officials said they still hoped that the company would agree to a negotiated settlement. Therefore, the Authority board instructed its attorney to delay serving the complaint for up to 60 days on condition that Aerojet take several actions to demonstrate good faith by Friday, April 14. The rapid spread of underground contamination in this area and the discovery of new contaminants, including a rocket fuel component called perchlorate, has forced the closure of drinking water wells serving people in the area. As a result, the La Puente Valley County Water District has had to purchase imported water for its customers at several times the cost of pumping groundwater. "This will be the first plant to go into operation that will cleanup not only the hazardous solvents that were discovered in the groundwater decade ago, but also perchlorate and other contaminants that were discovered in 1997," said Kirby Brill, WQA executive director. "This plant will remove these contaminants from the water and produce clean water that can be used by consumers." SOURCE: PRNewswire