Rialto city officials have declared a state of emergency, citing concerns about a shrinking water supply in danger of further contamination by dangerous chemicals.
The City Council voted on the declaration Tuesday in an attempt to secure state funding to halt the spread of industrial perchlorate in city groundwater. The growing, six-mile-long chemical plume in the north end of the San Bernardino County city contaminates 360 million gallons of groundwater each month.
“It’s time now that somebody heard us and helped us,” said Mayor Grace Vargas. “We need to protect our citizens.”
The declaration criticizes state and local regulatory agencies for failing to aggressively enforce cleanup efforts, and warns that Rialto would be “extremely vulnerable” in the event of a “catastrophic interruption” of its clean water supply.
Although the city says its safeguards prevent residents from drinking polluted water, the plume grows about 20 inches a day and poses a growing threat to nearby communities such as Colton, officials said.
The wet winter of several years ago caused the levels of perchlorate in water samples to spike, said Rialto Mayor Pro Tem Winnie Hanson. About half a dozen wells are affected by contamination, said Councilman Ed Scott.
In addition, Hanson said, drought conditions and water shortages in Northern California have increased pressure on Rialto’s aquifer, the city’s main source of drinking water.