A bill introduced today by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32) would ensure that federal funding would continue to flow to groundwater cleanup efforts in the San Gabriel River Basin.
The bill would extend the ability of local agencies to tap into federal funds already allocated for operations and maintenance of groundwater cleanup efforts to 15 years. Currently, the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority can only access operations and maintenance funds through the San Gabriel Basin Restoration Fund for 10 years.
"We are simply extending the time period during which already approved federal funds can be used," Rep. Chu added. "And because this bill entails no additional federal spending, any argument that this will add to our deficit in any way is moot. Besides, we cannot allow the health and safety of our residents and the integrity of our drinking water to be sacrificed at the altar of deficit reduction."
Rep. Chu is also working with Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, on introducing a similar bill in the Senate. She added that time was of the essence, since the 10 year period the Water Quality Authority has to access operations and maintenance funds will expire in the next 12 months.
"There is still much to be done, and local agencies need the flexibility to continue operating these plants without interruption, so that contamination plumes in our groundwater do not migrate to other areas," said Rep. Chu. "This bill will provide that flexibility."
Officials estimate that the total cost of cleaning up contaminated groundwater in the San Gabriel Valley will top $1.2 billion, with $901 million of that going towards operation and maintenance. The pollution is the result of seepage of rocket fuel and other chemicals leftover after decades of aerospace production in the region.