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$50-million settlement reached in Rialto Superfund site cleanup

Settlements worth a combined $50 million have been reached over the cleanup of a 160-acre Superfund site in Rialto, where the water supply was contaminated as companies manufactured munitions, fireworks and rocket motors, federal authorities said.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the two settlements Wednesday involving the B.F. Goodrich Superfund site and said a dozen entities were involved in the settlement, including San Bernardino County and the cities of Rialto and Colton.

After the site was sold by the U.S. Army in 1946, it was used by a number of companies, including defense contractors and fireworks manufacturers, according to the EPA's website. Pollution from the area was discovered in 1991, prompting the cities of Rialto and Colton and area water districts to shut down contaminated wells and install treatment equipment.

Two chemicals — trichloroethylene and perchlorate — were found in the groundwater, the EPA said. Perchlorate, used in rocket fuel, batteries and fireworks, can interfere with thyroid function and cause birth defects. Trichloroethylene, an industrial cleaning solvent, can damage the nervous system, liver and lungs.

The area was declared a Superfund site in 2009.

The cities, along with the EPA, sued several companies that used the site, including Pyro Spectaculars Inc., and Emhart Industries.

Under one agreement, the EPA said, Emhart will cover the first phase of a $43-million, 30-year cleanup process by building and operating groundwater wells, treatment systems and other equipment. Other parties, including the Department of Defense, will help foot the bill, and Rialto and Colton will receive $9 million.

The second agreement mandates that six entities pay a total of $4.3 million to the EPA and $1.3 million to Rialto, Colton and the county, the EPA said.

“For decades, the defendants have been polluting this critical source of drinking water with both perchlorate and industrial solvents,” Jared Blumenfeld, an EPA administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said in a statement. “Today's historic settlement ensures that the impacted communities in Southern California will finally have their drinking water sources restored.”

Both agreements are subject to court approval, the EPA said.

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-- Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

 
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