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Water Efforts Get Boost

More State Funds Coming To Clean Up Perchlorate

Feb 4, 2003 | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

A state official Monday told local water purveyors she would recommend they receive additional funding to help them deal with perchlorate pollution of their water supplies.

Assisted by a provision in a state bond measure that provides additional pollution treatment funds to areas with large numbers of minorities or low-income residents, three local agencies were told they are eligible for the extra funding to clean up the problem.

Officials from the cities of Rialto and Colton and the West San Bernardino County Water District met with Diana Robles, an engineer for the state Water Resources Control Board, who said she would recommend to her agency that the regional problem be given the status of an "Environmental Justice Community of Concern."

Under that status, the state share of the treatment of the groundwater problem would increase from 25 percent to 40 percent, said Robles.

Groundwater under Rialto, Fontana and Colton has been found to be contaminated with perchlorate, a compound used in the manufacture of explosives. About 20 wells are closed because of the contamination.

The funds come from the clean water and water quality provision of Proposition 50, passed by California voters last year. The proposition called for the sale of $3.44 billion in bonds to fund a variety of water projects.

"Based on what we heard here today, we will recommend to increase funding for your project under environmental justice provisions," Robles said. "These funds will be used to pay for the facilities needed to take contamination out of the water so that it can be used for the same use it had before it was contaminated. This is a water recycling project."

Robles heard answers to questions about how the quality of life of the area's residents has been impacted by the contamination, and how the purveyors would need to resort to water rationing if they cannot replace the water lost to the contamination.

Officials said they would use the money to install filter systems on some of the wells closed when they discovered high levels of perchlorate in them.

"I think it is because of the low-income levels in our area that we qualify," said Anthony Araiza, general manager of the West San Bernardino County Water District.

Due to the overlap of the water purveyors and the communities, the three groups have applied as a single community of concern.

"I service almost 50 percent of the city of Rialto and the west part of Fontana," Araiza said. "The Fontana Water Company, which services the rest of Fontana, is not eligible for Prop. 50 money under this program."

"Fontana was not eligible for Prop. 50 funds under this program because they are a privately owned company, not a public utility," said Robles.

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