Clean Water Victory

Working-class communities in the San Gabriel Valley and Pomona areas east of Los Angeles have won a state Supreme Court ruling that allows water users to sue privately owned water suppliers, as well as public water companies, over contamination of the water supply.
The private water suppliers had argued that only the state Public Utilities Commission regulated their water quality.
“It’s a very important ruling,” said Chris Rideout, an attorney at the Los Angeles firm Rose, Klein and Marian, representing some 2,000 plaintiffs buoyed by the February ruling. “This decision potentially affects customers of private water suppliers all over the state.”
From Arcadia to West Covina, from the 1950s through the 1980s, individual plaintiffs in some dozen lawsuits drank water containing perchlorate and volatile organic chemicals such as trichlorethylene, N-nitrosodimethylamine, and methyl ethyl ketone. The suit claims water users got cancer, blood disorders, and damaged nervous systems from the chemicals discharged by aerospace contractor Aerojet and other companies in the 1950s and 1960s. With the contamination migrating underground toward southeast Los Angeles, 31 drinking-water wells have closed, their water replaced by Colorado River water.
Aerojet and seven other companies reached a tentative agreement with water companies in January for an $80 million cleanup. This agreement doesn’t affect the individuals’ suits, which will now proceed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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