County Selling Off Effective But Expensive Water Purification Equipment

The county’s public works department is going to sell off equipment it purchased through a federal government grant seven years ago for use in a pioneering groundwater treatment effort to redress the North Rialto source of perchlorate contamination that has infested the aquifers beneath Rialto and Colton.
In the late 1990s, a plume of contaminants containing perchlorate was found to be migrating through the water table underlying Rialto. At or surrounding the contaminated area the county operated the Mid-Valley Landfill, Broco, Inc. maintained a hazardous waste disposal facility and 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. After public health officials identified that area as the origin of the plume of perchlorate, 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. Other lawsuits against all of the companies that operated there or their corporate successors ensued as did action undertaken by several regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.
In very minute quantities perchlorate can wreak havoc on the thyroid gland.
Officials with the Rialto-based West Valley Water District and their lawyers have alleged that San Bernardino County, which runs the Mid-Valley Landfill in north Rialto, razed and buried the hazardous waste-disposal facility Broco ran near the site from the mid-1960s until the late 1980s, which worsened the contamination of the groundwater below Rialto.
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.
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. For that reason, some of the entities deemed active at the site prior to the detection of the contamination, including the county, are involved in a remediation effort.
According to Jerry Newcombe, the county’s director of public works, in 2009, the solid waste management district was given the opportunity by Applied Research Associates, a consultant working on the contamination remediation issue, to demonstrate an alternative technology for groundwater treatment as part of the county’s groundwater treatment system associated with perchlorate and volatile organic compound impacted groundwater.
“On behalf of the United States Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, Applied Research Associates constructed and operated a pilot demonstration weak-base anion treatment system at Well No. 3 in the city of Rialto to supplement removal of perchlorate and volatile organic compounds from groundwater pumped by the county’s groundwater treatment system,” Newcombe said. “The solid waste management division has been working with the City of Rialto at Well No. 3 since 2006 to mitigate perchlorate and volatile organic compound impacts to groundwater in this area.”
On February 3, 2009, the board of supervisors approved Agreement No. 09-83 between Applied Research Associates and solid waste management division, to demonstrate an alternative technology for groundwater treatment. The agreement stipulated that the county would become the owner of Applied Research Associates’ weak-base anion treatment system equipment upon completion of Applied Research Associates’ pilot study.
“The pilot study was completed in December 2012,” said Newcombe. “The pilot study concluded that the cost of the continued operations and maintenance of the weak-base anion technology was considerably higher than the currently used standard ion exchange equipment for the low to intermediate level of perchlorate detected at the Rialto well. Therefore, the weak-base anion equipment is no longer needed.”
From March 2013 to late May 2015, equipment and media vendors were contacted to identify potential buyers. An inventory of the treatment plant equipment, including an estimate of current value, was completed for the County by R.C. in June 2013. Collectively, the equipment is valued at an estimated $191,000. Some of the pieces, for example, include two ion exchange holding
tanks valued at $42,500 each, which fall within the fixed asset category. Miscellaneous equipment that was deemed to have no significant future worth, such as used PVC piping, was not included in the inventory.
The county purchasing department will solicit bids. Upon determination of the highest bid, the purchasing agent will be authorized to execute any and all documents for the sale of the equipment, with proceeds being retained by solid waste management division.

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