This week, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) and Congressman Gary Miller submitted an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Appropriations bill to ensure adequate funding for a competitive grant program that promotes the research and development of new technologies to help local communities dealing with, among other environmental issues, groundwater contamination. These programs are important for areas like the Inland Empire, where high levels of the chemical perchlorate have been detected in the groundwater. Exposure to high levels of perchlorate can hinder thyroid function in humans. The amendment would not have required any new spending outside of the appropriations bill. Rather, it would have shifted $10 million from the Defense-wide Operations and Maintenance account to the research and development technology programs.
While the amendment was not adopted, Reps. Baca and Miller received assurances from Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, Congressman Bill Young, that he remains willing to work with the representatives in order to address the needs of the community.
One-quarter of Inland Empire aquifers have been found to contain high levels of perchlorate, a rocket fuel additive that when found in groundwater can be harmful to the elderly, women, and children. This week, the U.S. Geological Survey released findings from a statewide assessment of groundwater quality that high levels of perchlorate were discovered in 11 percent of wells, while moderate concentrations were detected in 53 percent of the state's wells.
Congressman Baca said, "Families in the Inland Empire and across the nation deserve access to safe, clean drinking water. This amendment was an opportunity to better fund grant programs to assist with the cleanup of perchlorate contamination in our area. I am glad to work with my colleague, Rep. Gary Miller, in a bipartisan effort to raise awareness on this issue. I look forward to continuing our efforts together in addressing issues of vital importance to the well-being of Inland communities."
Congressman Miller added, "Having lived in the region for decades, I am very much aware of the problems caused by perchlorate in our drinking water. While the amendment was not adopted, I remain committed to addressing the serious health and quality of life issues that are caused by contaminated groundwater. I thank Congressman Baca for his continued leadership on this issue, and look forward to working together to improve water quality for the residents of Southern California."