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
"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