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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

EPA Tells Aerojet, 18 Other Firms to Clean Up Aquifer

July 01, 2000

BALDWIN PARK — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Aerojet General Corp. and 18 other companies to complete an up-to-$200-million cleanup of the contaminated San Gabriel Valley aquifer--the largest such order in California history, according to officials.

"They have to complete the design by the end of the year and complete construction by the end of next year," said Keith Takata, regional director of the EPA's Superfund division.

The move comes three weeks after talks between the defense giant, the federal agency and local water producers broke down and dashed hopes that relief for the 16-year-old Superfund site in Baldwin Park was finally in sight.

Aerojet reportedly offered $48 million for water producers to build their own plants to treat the water for organic solvents and byproducts of rocket fuel. But that number fell far short of the projected $150-million to $200-million cleanup costs.

An Aerojet spokeswoman said she had not seen the administrative order issued Friday, but had been expecting it. Both she and the EPA officials say they are hopeful that negotiations can resume after the recent breakdown, and that the order would be effectively rescinded.

If that doesn't occur, Aerojet must comply or face costly litigation. The firm has already been sued twice over the contamination by a government agency. On Wednesday, the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority filed its second lawsuit against Aerojet for costs to cleanup some of the ground water in Baldwin Park and La Puente.

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