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Zero Tolerance Logo NOTICE: Under the City Council’s Zero Tolerance Policy, the City will not blend any detectable levels of perchlorate into its water system and your water is safe. To learn more about the City Council’s Zero Tolerance Policy, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Perchlorate

  1. What is a Cleanup and Abatement Order (CAO)?
  2. Are we being served contaminated water?
  3. Should we boil the water if we intend to drink it?
  4. What is the City's "Zero Tolerance Policy?"
  5. Why can't you collect from the responsible parties and not from the residents initially?
  6. How come it is so much money if there are so many residents in Rialto?
  7. How long will we be paying Perchlorate charges?
  8. When will the residents get any reimbursement for perchlorate charges paid?
  9. Where is the money collected going?
  10. What if I do not pay the Perchlorate charge on my bill?
  11. Can Perchlorate spread underground to other non-contaminated wells?
  12. Is there a way to protect our "good" wells from becoming contaminated?
  13. Do we have arrangements to get water from other sources should we run out of "clean" water?
  14. Is there a potential to drill more wells?
  15. Isn't this just another way for the City to make more money?
  16. How much money is being given to the City and the County for the cleanup and what is being done with it?
  17. Why are residents still being charged the Perchlorate surcharge if it is receiving all the Federal and State funding?
  18. Is there a phone number or additional resource I can get updated information?
  1. Q: What is a Cleanup and Abatement Order (CAO)?

    A:
    A Cleanup and Abatement Order, also called a CAO for short, is a directive issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Board to a polluter requiring it to clean up its waste.  If a polluter refuses to comply with a CAO, the Regional Water Quality Control Board can request that the California Attorney Genral sue the polluter to force it to comply with the CAO.  A court order which directs a polluter to comply with a CAO is called an "injunction."
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  2. Q: Are we being served contaminated water?

    A:
    No. If your water bill comes from the City of Rialto then your water is safe.  Immediately after perchlorate was first detected in its water, the City Council adopted a zero tolerance policy for perchlorate. Under Rialto's zero tolerance policy, if a well tests positive for perchlorate, then the well is shut down and taken out of service. The well is restored to service only after it is outfitted with state-approved treatment facilities, and the water is treated to "non-detect" levels using state-approved testing methods. If your water bill comes from West Valley Water District, Fontana Water Company, or Marygold Mutual Water Company, please contact that water provider. To learn other water provider's telephone numbers, click here.
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  3. Q: Should we boil the water if we intend to drink it?

    A:
    No, you do not need to boil City water before drinking it.  The City only serves water that tests "non-detect" for perchlorate, which means there is no detectable perchlorate in it.
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  4. Q: What is the City's "Zero Tolerance Policy?"

    A:

    Based on the fact that there is no agreement within the scientific community, let alone by lawmakers, on just how much perchlorate can safely be ingested, the Rialto City Council has adopted its "Zero Tolerance Policy." Under the City's policy, if a well tests positive for detectible levels of perchlorate, that well is shut down and taken out of service. Its water is not placed into the City's water system unless and until it is outfitted with treatment equipment and the water tests "non-detect" for perchlorate using state-approved testing methods. In this manner, no detectable perchlorate is allowed into the Rialto Water System and the citizens served by Rialto may rest assured that their water is safe. Furthermore, it is the City's position that this is the standard to which the City should hold the polluters accountable to clean the water.

    The City continues to monitor all applicable State health goals, standards and health studies for perchlorate.   For more information see this  Los Angeles Times article and the full National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences report.

    To learn more about the California Department of Health Service status of California MCL standard for Perchlorate in Drinking Water visit:  http://www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/ddwem/chemicals/perchl/perchlorateMCL.htm


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  5. Q: Why can't you collect from the responsible parties and not from the residents initially?

    A:
    The responsible parties will not pay tens or hundreds of millions of dollars voluntarily. The City has sued the responsible parties and is pursuing further clean up and abatement orders to force the responsible parties to pay for the needed clean-up as soon as possible.  But, the responsible parties are still resisting. We estimate that they have spent over $25 million on lawyers alone to fight the City's efforts.  Despite stiff opposition by the polluting parties, Rialto has identified over $1 billion dollars in assets and insurance coverage.  Following contentious litigation, Rialto obtained a federal court order which requires that if Emhart Industries and other entities related to Black and Decker, Inc. are responsible to clean up the Rialto-Colton Groundwater Basin, there is a $716 million fund available to be spent on that clean up and to provide replacement water to Rialto. The litigation has already paid for itself. After investigating the County landfill and presenting the evidence obtained as part of the investigation to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, that board issued an order requiring the County to implement a clean-up plan for part of the plume. The County estimates it has spent $6.5 million installing wellhead treatment and estimates it will spend $20 million over a five year period. The City is pursuing similar orders against other polluting corporations. The City is tracking all perchlorate surcharge payments made by its residents, and intends to return them to the persons who paid them after obtaining full recovery from the polluters.
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  6. Q: How come it is so much money if there are so many residents in Rialto?

    A:
    Although no one knows for sure at this time, it is estimated that it may take up to 50 years and cost between $200 million and $300 million to clean all of the perchlorate out of the Rialto-Colton Groundwater Basin.  Because of the amount of money at stake, many of the responsible parties, including the County of San Bernardino, are reluctant to pitch in and contribute their fair share to the clean up efforts.  The perchlorate problem in Rialto is very costly to fix, but the City Council is committed to reimbursing its citizens for what they are paying now once the responsible parties are made to pay.
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  7. Q: How long will we be paying Perchlorate charges?

    A:
    The City will ask the ratepayers to pay perchlorate charges until it can recover enough money from the responsible parties to get its ratepayers paid back and to ensure it can deliver perchlorate-free water to its customers now and into the future.
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  8. Q: When will the residents get any reimbursement for perchlorate charges paid?

    A:
    Under the City Resolution adopting the perchlorate surcharge, the City Council set forth specific provisions for when the surcharge will end, when refunds will be made and when refunds will be completed. In a nutshell, the surcharges will be repaid when the responsible parties pay the costs incurred by the City to force them to clean up the pollution. This is one of the remedies sought by the City in its suit against the responsible parties. The provisions governing the refunds are set forth inResolution No. 5074 of the City Council.
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  9. Q: Where is the money collected going?

    A:

    The Perchlorate surcharge is collected and tracked within the Water Fund and is used to treat water where necessary and to fund the City's three-part perchlorate clean up plan

    The first part of that plan is to make sure that the responsible parties are held to pay for both the clean-up of the water basin and the provision of clean water in the meantime through litigation in court.  Litigation not only results in responsible parties having to reimburse the citizens of Rialto and pay for future clean up costs, but also brings in insurance money that would not otherwise be available to help pay for the clean up. 

    The second part of the City's clean up plan is to work with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to provide it with evidence (obtained through the litigation) to support administrative orders requiring the responsible parties to clean up the perchlorate. The Water Quality Board has authority under state law to order certain investigative and remedial measures be performed at the expense of parties that caused the pollution, including final "Clean-Up and Abatement Orders." The Board can also include "water replacement orders," under which the offending polluters are required to provide clean water to the community. The City has already been instrumental in assisting the Regional Board with its orders against the County of San Bernardino, forcing it to install some treatment systems in Rialto and to provide replacement water to Rialto. 

    The third part of Rialto's clean up plan is to apply for federal and state grants and to lobby state and federal legislators for other monetary assistance, in order to pay for water treatment until the litigation is completed.

    To learn more about the plan, click here.


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  10. Q: What if I do not pay the Perchlorate charge on my bill?

    A:
    Lack of payment may result in the water being shut off for non-payment. The surcharge carries the same force as the normal charge.

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  11. Q: Can Perchlorate spread underground to other non-contaminated wells?

    A:

    Yes.  Perchlorate is spreading through the Rialto-Colton Groundwater Basin underground, generally migrating towards Colton from the vicinity of the Mid-Valley Sanitary Landfill in Rialto.  However, the Basin has geologic barriers called impermeable faults on the Fontana and Lytle Creek sides, which generally prevent the perchlorate plume from moving out of the Basin in those directions.  Click here to see a diagram of the ground water basin.


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  12. Q: Is there a way to protect our "good" wells from becoming contaminated?

    A:
    Working with Rialto, the Regional Water Quality Control Board is developing a long term clean up plan for the entire basin.  If that plan includes a line of interception wells, some of Rialto's clean wells may be protected.  Whether it is better from a financial standpoint and from a public health standpoint to install a line of interception wells, or to install treatment systems on each well as it becomes contaminated, or to pursue a different solution, is one of the important issues Rialto is working on right now with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.  Rialto will hold a series of public hearings and receive public input on alternatives for cleaning up the basin.

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  13. Q: Do we have arrangements to get water from other sources should we run out of "clean" water?

    A:
    Yes.  The Regional Water Quality Control Board has ordered one of the polluters, the County of San Bernardino, to provide clean replacement water to Rialto to make up for water lost because of the County's pollution.  Rialto also has interties and agreements with other regional water service providers, including Riverside-Highland Mutual Water Company, City of Colton, West Valley Water District, Fontana Water Company and others, that allow the City to buy safe water from these providers.
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  14. Q: Is there a potential to drill more wells?

    A:
    Yes, but drilling more wells may not solve the problem.  The City will not know for certain what the best solution is until the Regional Water Quality Control Board develops its Basin-wide clean up plan.  That plan may very well involve drilling more wells.  The City and its experts are working closely with the Water Quality Board to develop the Basin-wide clean up plan now.
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  15. Q: Isn't this just another way for the City to make more money?

    A:
    The City does not profit from the water surcharge.  All of the money goes to fund Rialto's three-part clean up plan. Also, all payments are being tracked and accounted for with eye towards reimbursement of those amounts when collected from the polluters and their insurance companies. This policy was adopted as part of the initial adoption of the surcharge.
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  16. Q: How much money is being given to the City and the County for the cleanup and what is being done with it?

    A:
    It costs close to $1 million for the equipment necessary on each well to treat the City's water to "non-detect," and up to $500,000 per year to operate the equipment at each well.  The City has caused three wells to be outfitted with wellhead treatment facilities, and has operated some of its facilities for nearly 3 years. Despite its efforts over the past 7 years to obtain state and federal assistance with surrounding agencies, the City has received less than $2 million total state and federal assistance. Treatment costs have exceeded this amount. For more information see the City's perchlorate clean-up plan.
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  17. Q: Why are residents still being charged the Perchlorate surcharge if it is receiving all the Federal and State funding?

    A:
    The City has received less than $2 million in federal and state funding combined. It has incurred more than that treating water, let alone pursuing the polluters to pay for the clean-up. Until the polluters agree to pay for the clean-up, the City will need to pursue them in court and in regulatory proceedings.

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  18. Q: Is there a phone number or additional resource I can get updated information?

    A:
    You may call the City Attorney's office to obtain additional information.  You are invited to attend Town Hall meetings, where you can ask questions of your City representatives and invited guests.  Notices of these meetings will be posted on the main Rialto webpage and also at the beginning of this Perchlorate webpage. 
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Last Updated: 10/3/2006
150 S. Palm Avenue, Rialto, CA 92376 • Phone: (909) 820-2525 • Fax: (909) 820-2527
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