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EPA to build water-treatment plant in Rialto

October 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a plan to clean up contaminated water in San Bernardino County. The target area is Rialto, where groundwater is considered not just un-drinkable, but dangerous.Rialto resident Maria Corral doesn't have problem watering her lawn, but drinking that water is another matter.

"Our water has always been bad here. We always had to buy water bottles," said Corral.

Corral lives less than a mile from a former BF Goodrich site. The area has been designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency because of groundwater contamination.

In 1997 the EPA closed several water wells in and around the area after perchlorate was discovered. The toxic chemical has been linked to cancer.

"We never drank it," said Corral. "So they tried to fix it but they never fixed anything."

That's about to change. The EPA is planning to build an $18-million treatment plant that will purify an estimated 3,200 gallons of water per minute. The water will then be pumped back into aquifers in Rialto, Colton and Fontana.

"I'm OK with it as long as it doesn't hurt me or my family," said Rialto resident Early Nelmes.

The plan will only focus on the 160-acre site, once home to the U.S. Army, which used it to receive and store weapons.

But Fontana Water Company General Manager Robert Young says the plan is flawed because it ignores nine of its wells also contaminated with perchlorate.

"We've been fighting very hard to get them to look at this area and the contamination that we're experiencing, but they haven't done it yet," said Young.

An EPA spokesman said their pump will treat the toxic water at the source of the contamination and have a domino effect on other polluted wells.

Still, it might take some convincing for residents like Corral once the water is deemed safe to drink.

"I still won't drink it," said Corral.

The EPA's plan is no quick fix. The water treatment plant is expected to be up and running three years from now.


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