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Superfund Might Help Pay for Ground Water Cleanup

August 12, 1993|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EL MONTE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might use government Superfund money to help pay for cleanup of the polluted San Gabriel Basin, which provides drinking water to the region.

Jeffrey Rosenblum, the EPA's manager of ground water mediation for the San Gabriel Valley, said during a hearing Friday at El Monte City Hall that he would recommend the agency use money from the federal fund, plus settlements from local polluters, to pay for water treatment plants.

"We will pursue those who we feel are responsible for contaminants. If we can't reach a settlement with the responsible parties, the EPA is considering providing some funding," Rosenblum testified before the state Assembly Select Committee on Groundwater Contamination and Landfill Leakage.

"That is a deviation from past administrations," he said. Both the Reagan and Bush administrations sued guilty parties, forcing cash settlements that they used for the cleanup.

The San Gabriel Basin, which stretches from Alhambra to La Verne, would be the first Superfund site for which federal officials have sought such an arrangement, he said.

The ground water contamination was discovered in 1979. In 1984 federal officials put the basin on the Superfund list of national environmental cleanup priorities.

Rosenblum said government money may be needed because even when all of the potential polluters contribute, the amount could still be short of what is needed. At least 300 polluters have been identified.

The EPA would use the Superfund if polluters pay 80% to 90% of the needed funds for local treatment plants that could cost from $300 million to $1 billion, he said.

Rosenblum, who came to the area six months ago, said the EPA would seek to streamline the settlements and establish a process by which businesses that contribute a certain amount would be exempt from further litigation.

As part of the cleanup, federal officials have proposed a $47-million ground water treatment plant in Baldwin Park to pump 19 million gallons of contaminated water a day, and the erection of monitoring wells at the Pomona Freeway to check if the water is flowing south and polluting clean aquifers.

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