County Ups Engineering Firm’s Fees On Perchlorate Cleanup

(March 3)  The county is increasing by another $1.13 million the $1.3 million it has already paid the environmental engineering consulting firm Geo-Logic Associates  for assistance with regard to perchlorate contamination in northern Rialto.
Upon the recommendation of public works director  Gerry Newcombe, the  board of supervisors last week, in the words of Newcombe’s official staff report, approved an amendment to a contract “with Geo-Logic Associates to provide continuing and additional maintenance and operations support for the perchlorate and volatile organic compound groundwater treatment system at city of Rialto Well No. 3, in the amount of $1,131,550, increasing the total contract amount from $1,299,342 to $2,430,892, for the contract period of July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2016.”
Geo-Logic’s work is related to activities at the former Broco facility, which the county purchased two decades ago and included as part of the operations at its Mid Valley  Landfill.
In the late 1990s, a plume of contaminants containing perchlorate was found to be migrating through the local water table. It is believed that five corporate entities – Pyro Spectaculars, Ken Thompson Inc., Chung Ming Wong, BF Goodrich, and Emhart Industries – were engaged in manufacturing activities that resulted in the accumulation and release of the perchlorate.
Water agency officials, state officials and federal officials believe the county of San Bernardino may have engaged in activity that exacerbated the perchlorate problem.
The county runs the Mid-Valley Landfill in north Rialto.
Officials with the Rialto-based West Valley Water District and their lawyers have alleged that San Bernardino County razed and buried a hazardous waste-disposal facility at the site, an act those officials maintain was not only illegal but has worsened the contamination of the groundwater below Rialto.
Broco Inc. maintained the hazardous-waste disposal operation in northern Rialto from the mid-1960s until the late 1980s. The county purchased the property in 1994 and used it in the expansion of the Mid-Valley Sanitary Landfill.
According to attorney Barry Groveman, who represents the West Valley Water District, it appears the county simply knocked the hazardous waste facility down and spread the debris around before burying it. That action was against the law, Groveman said.
Groveman said the county was in violation of state hazardous waste handling regulations and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Burying hazardous waste and storing it without a permit is illegal.
In the area around the Broco site, Pyro Spectaculars, Ken Thompson Inc., Chung Ming Wong, BF Goodrich and Emhart Industries had operations that were ongoing in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Public health officials have identified that area as the origin of the plume of perchlorate.
Perchlorate is a product used in the manufacture of both fireworks and ordnance. In very minute quantities perchlorate can wreak havoc on the thyroid gland.
The site has been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as one of its Superfund sites, which makes federal funding for the remediation available but also carries with it a requirement that the parties responsible for the contamination assist in the effort. Simultaneously, the EPA will apply the Superfund money toward the remediation. Eventually, if any of the parties deemed responsible for the contamination refuse to sponsor or otherwise pay for a share of the remediation, the EPA will sue and under federal law, any party proven responsible will be required to pay triple the cost of that portion of the clean up for which it was the contaminating party.
The ability to impose triple damages serves as an incentive for the responsible entities to undertake the clean-up on their own or participate in funding an EPA-sponsored remediation.
Previously, the city of Rialto sued BF Goodrich over the contamination issue. Rialto dropped that lawsuit after the company agreed to undertake a remediation effort. BF Goodrich did pay a total of $4 million – $1 million each to the cities of Fontana, Rialto and Colton as well as to the West Valley Water District. That money was used to treat specific wells that were producing perchlorate-laden water but did not redress the underlying problems in the aquifer. BF Goodrich, like the other companies, will yet likely be on the hook for millions of dollars more in decontamination efforts.
An EPA-designed program of remediation, consisting of contaminated water being pumped out of the ground to then be treated and distributed to water districts, is underway. It will likely take two decades or more for the perchlorate levels to be reduced to acceptable limits.
Rialto officials had initially resisted the call to have the area declared a Superfund site, largely because doing so could have a deleterious impact on property values in the area. As the expense of completing a remediation of the problem has been driven home to city officials, it is now accepted that the Superfund designation is the only realistic way of coming to terms with the problem.
The county of San Bernardino, nevertheless, has committed  several million dollars to a court battle to obtain a finding that it is not responsible for the contamination.
In May 2009, then-county counsel Ruth Stringer convinced the county board of supervisors to retain the law firm of Gallagher & Gallagher at an original cost of  $710,000. The legal services Gallagher & Gallagher was to provide pertained to allegations against the county for perchlorate contamination in connection with particular matters that fall outside of the defense work covered by the county’s insurance. Gallagher & Gallagher currently represents the county in connection with the federal and state court litigation and federal and state agencies’ investigations of the perchlorate groundwater contamination in the Rialto-Colton Basin.  Records show that so far the county has paid Gallagher & Gallagher  a total of $2,325,000 and that another law firm, Price Postel & Parma has been paid $4 million by the county for its work with regard to perchlorate contamination litigation.
According to Newcombe, “ Amending this contract allows for the continuation of certain services associated with the replacement of media, such as resin and activated carbon filters, and laboratory analysis of the groundwater treatment system samples at the perchlorate and volatile organic compound (VOC) treatment system at City of Rialto Well No. 3, through years two and three of the contract. In addition, this amendment includes laboratory analysis of the groundwater treatment system samples from the first year of the contract term to continue through years two and three, and for additional services for the repair and replacement of miscellaneous groundwater treatment system equipment, as needed, to maintain operation of the system for the remainder of the contract term.”
Newcombe said the county is working in cooperation with Santa Ana Region Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Public Health  to remediate the circumstance at the city of Rialto Well No. 3, “thus reducing the long term financial liability of the county. This amendment will ensure the county continues to meet its obligations under state-mandated Cleanup and Abatement Order No. R8-2004-0072 and the Department of Public Health permit for perchlorate and VOC related impacts to the groundwater from city of Rialto Well No. 3.
On June 25, 2013  the board of supervisors approved a sole source contract with Geologic Associates (GLA), for a three-year term to provide consulting services to conduct maintenance and operations support, groundwater monitoring and reporting related to perchlorate and VOC impacts to groundwater in the vicinity of the  landfill, and to provide review and oversight of the perchlorate and VOC removal by the groundwater treatment system at city of Rialto Well No. 3.
Newcombe told the board of supervisors, “Costs approved by amendment consist of the following: two resin replacements per year with an average cost of $119,400 per replacement; and two granular activated carbon change-outs per year with an average cost of $51,700 per change-out. In addition to media replacement costs, this amendment includes a budget of $75,000 per year to cover expenses to repair or replace miscellaneous groundwater treatment equipment. Examples of such expenses are as follows: replacement bag filters and ultra-violet unit bulbs (costing about $50 to $1,500 per order), electrical repairs required to service the system booster pump (originally costing about $65,000), variable frequency drives (originally costing about $25,000) and “CLA” valves (new cost about $15,000), flow meters (new costs about $3,500). Hence, replacement costs for such equipment  may range from $24,000 to $65,000 per item which would consume most of the annual cost  originally allocated for this task. This amendment accounts for a five percent annual increase in costs for equipment, media replacement and labor.
“Based upon the discussion above approximately $995,000 ( 88%) of the amendment increase is attributed solely to media replacement and equipment repairs and replacement,” Newcombe said.
“The term of the contract commenced on July 1, 2013 and will continue through June 30, 2016,  unless extended pursuant to contract section 29 or terminated pursuant to contract Section 7, or as otherwise provided for in the contract.”

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