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Tanner Vows to Make State, Not Consumers, Pay for Water Cleanup

Times Staff Writer

Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte) says she will insist that the state pay its full share of the cost of cleaning up contaminated ground water in the San Gabriel Valley and fight efforts to shift the burden to water customers.

“It’s the state and federal governments’ responsibility to make sure there is clean water,” Tanner told officials from the state Department of Health Services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board at a meeting in her office last week.

May Introduce Legislation

Tanner called the meeting after state health officials said the state does not have the money to pay its share of the cleanup cost, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Tanner said she will hold hearings and, if necessary, introduce legislation to make sure that San Gabriel Valley residents are not stuck with the cost of cleaning up ground water.

EPA is planning a series of water treatment systems in the San Gabriel Valley to remove chemicals that have polluted one-fourth of the area’s water wells. EPA will pay 90% of the construction cost of the systems and 90% of the operating costs for 10 years. The state will pay the remaining 10% for construction, and state health officials have suggested that the remaining operational costs, amounting to millions of dollars, be financed locally.

Tanner said putting the cleanup costs on water bills would be unfair.

“We’re talking about low- and middle-income people who won’t be able to pay for water,” she said. “We can’t ask people to pay triple, or whatever it costs.”

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Lach McClenahen, chief of site mitigation, policy and management for the agency that runs the state Superfund program, told Tanner that the state Superfund will be broke in the next year and does not have the money to pay for the maintenance and operation of water treatment systems in the San Gabriel Valley.

McClenahen said the Legislature has never fully addressed the question of who should pay for the operation of ground water treatment systems, and noted that some cleanups will take 20 or 30 years. He said he would welcome a bill by Tanner to stimulate debate on how to pay for the systems.

Tanner said she believes the law already requires the state to pay for operation and maintenance of water treatment systems, but she will introduce legislation if that’s what it takes to keep the cost from being passed to water customers.


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