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Clean Water A Legal and Moral Obligation, says Rep. Baca

Location: Washington, DC

Clean Water A Legal and Moral Obligation, says Rep. Baca
Rep. Baca presents Southern California Groundwater Remediation Act to the House Resources Committee.

June 23, 2004

Washington, D.C. - There is a legal and moral obligation to provide safe and healthy water, Rep. Joe Baca (D, Rialto) told the Subcommittee on Power and Water of the House Resources Committee today in a hearing on the Southern California Groundwater Remediation Act.

"There is a legal and moral obligation to provide safe and healthy water. Today, these obligations are in jeopardy," said Rep. Baca. "Residents are now worried that perchlorate is in milk they buy at the grocery store and that their kids drink for breakfast."

"The hardworking families in these areas are not at fault and should not have to pay for a federally created problem."

The bill will create a fund administered by the Secretary of the Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation, that will assist in the funding and implementation of groundwater remediation. It will support areas covered by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority and the San Gabriel River watershed. Southern California, and particularly the Inland Empire, has been greatly impacted by perchlorate-contaminated water. Rep. Baca's bill will alleviate the economic burden of perchlorate clean up on the community.

Fontana City Councilwoman Josie Gonzales testified before the committee about the effects of perchlorate in her community.

"It is neither right nor equitable to balance the costs of such clean-up solely on the backs of the resident who now choose to call communities like Fontana their home," said Councilwoman Gonzales. "It is in times such as these that it is both expected and incumbent on the government to step in and find solutions that are in the interests of many."

California State Senator Nell Soto was also asked to testify but was unable to attend due to business in Sacramento. Senator Soto formed the Inland Empire Perchlorate task force, which was instrumental in the formation of the bill.
Perchlorate is a chemical that is a main ingredient in rocket fuel. It has been found in 20 states, including California. It has been linked to thyroid damage and may be especially harmful to infants and developing fetuses. Perchlorate in water supplies is left over from former military sites, defense contractors and other industries.

Action on perchlorate clean up has been delayed due to high costs, a debate over who holds responsible for the contamination, and lack of a clear standard for what level of perchlorate is dangerous. Rep. Baca's bill will allow communities to get the money they need for perchlorate clean up without the debate.

"Until someone can tell us why rocket fuel in our water, lettuce and even milk is good for us, we have to continue looking out for our families, consumers, ratepayers and taxpayers," said Congressman Baca.

"Our communities are tired of watching the finger pointing, and waiting for someone to step up to the plate."

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