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Contaminated Groundwater in San Gabriel Valley Poses Life-Threatening Health Risks

Representing approximately 1000 of the one million people living in the San Gabriel Valley, Rose, Klein & Marias LLP, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court charging contaminated groundwater in the area has created serious health risks for their clients and others living or working in specific San Gabriel Valley communities.

The lawsuit names five water companies-Suburban Water Systems, San Gabriel Valley Water Co., Southwest Water Co. and California Domestic Water Co. – as those responsible for knowingly distributing tainted water to consumers in the twelve San Gabriel Valley cities named below. Also named in the lawsuit are 19 firms that recently received a request to enter into a consent decree, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) process that outlines a company’s legal and financial responsibility in providing funds to clean up pollutants for which they are responsible. (See below for names.) These companies have been identified by the EPA as potentially responsible parties for one or more carcinogenic chemicals that have seeped into the groundwater from inappropriate disposal of solvents and rocket fuel. The chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

According to the EPA, dangerous levels of the VOC’s Trichloroethylene (TCE), Tetracholoroethane (PCE) and Carbon Tetrachloride (CTC) were detected in San Gabriel Valley groundwater during environmental monitoring conducted by Aerojet Electrosystems near their Azusa facility in 1997- As a result the PPA identified certain areas of the San Gabriel Valley as “Superfund Sites” requiring clean up. Both TCE and CTC have been identified as probable human carcinogens and are assigned extremely low permissible concentration levels in drinking water. TCE and PCE degrade into Vinyl Chloride, which is a known human carcinogen. More recently, Perchlorate has been detected in the groundwater. It is known to have adverse affects to the thyroid gland.

Among the clients in the lawsuit is Amanda Fernandez, acting as guardian de litem for Kristen and Lauren Santmaria, whose mother died of leukemia at the age of 44. Another client is Mark de la Rambelje, whose mother died as a result of cancer. Before her death, she was treated for liver, kidney and breast cancer. Other clients include individuals who suffer forms of cancer or other conditions involving thyroid conditions.

According to Barry Goldman, a senior partner at Rose, Klein & Marias, levels of contaminates in the groundwater represent a serious health threat. “There are a significant number of people with thyroid conditions in these cities, a problem directly related to the chemical Perchlorate,” he noted, adding. “We have evidence that hundreds of people have become ill and others have died from cancer-related diseases in the affected communities. It is unconscionable that these people were knowingly supplied with dangerously polluted water,” he said. “Residents have been drinking this contaminated water for years and years.

In addition to seeking compensation for people who are ill due to chemical exposure and redress for families of those have died from diseases caused by exposure, the plaintiffs are asking for creation of a medical monitoring fund for people at high risk of disease from exposure, and for property damage for families whose property value will drop because they are located in a community where the water supply is dangerous.

The lawsuit was resolved in 2006.