SB 922 Would Force PRPs to Pay for Drinking Water

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, April 25, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

A bill to be heard Monday, April 28th, in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee would force potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to provide or pay for replacement drinking water to potentially affected water suppliers as a condition of a cleanup and abatement order. This condition could be imposed in the absence of a clear understanding of the PRPs contribution to any contamination or the impact of such contamination on a drinking water supply. SB 922 (Nell Soto-D Pomona) could lead to a more adversarial interaction among PRPs, regional boards and affected water suppliers.

Under SB 922, replacement drinking water requirements are triggered upon the request of a potentially affected water supplier, where a drinking water supply or potential drinking water supply is contaminated. Without further clarification, this language could be interpreted to include an entire aquifer, when in fact the contamination may be miles from the point of extraction. If drinking water wells are not contaminated, or are not imminently threatened, there is no need for replacement water, and the investigation and cleanup should proceed according to the terms of the regional board's order.

SB 922 also requires PRPs to prematurely accept liability and incur costs on the basis of a contribution that either cannot be accurately quantified or that may be disputed by other PRPs. It is not clear how an individual PRP could satisfy the requirements in SB 922 in complex cases such as Rialto, where the groundwater contamination investigation is still ongoing and there are multiple PRPs engaged in discussions with the regional board concerning past and present operations and possible sources of contamination. These issues must be resolved before any PRP can stipulate to a contribution, much less determine its replacement water obligations.

Existing law already contains a variety of remedies to address contaminated drinking water supplies. Where replacement water is needed, it is provided either through the application of legal remedies, as in the case of MTBE contamination in South Lake Tahoe, or through voluntary agreements between PRPs and water suppliers, as occurred recently in Rialto. SB 922 would not expedite these difficult negotiations. Rather, given the uncertain applicability of the replacement water requirements and the legal and cost ramifications for PRPs, SB 922 would drive most PRPs to litigate cleanup and abatement orders as a first resort, further delaying action to remedy actual drinking water impacts.
Read more Environmental Impacts articles

Capitol updates archive 989898989