Homeowners sue county over well pollution
April 12, 2016
A group of about 50 San Luis Obispo residents plan to sue SLO County, alleging toxic chemicals dumped at the airport polluted their wells. Forty-eight residents, or 20 households, have already filed claims against the county, and more property owners may join the legal action.
The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board recently discovered that 12 wells near the SLO County Regional Airport contain levels of trichloroethylene that exceed state limits. Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a colorless, volatile nonflammable liquid that the aircraft industry previously used and then phased out in the 1970s due to its toxicity, according to the water board.
Water board officials sampled wells near the airport after an intern for the agency researched TCE levels and discovered previous reports of pollution had slipped through the cracks. Of 64 wells that were sampled, 12 had TCE levels that exceeded the state limit of micrograms per liter of water.
Attorney John Fiske is representing all of the residents who filed claims against the county. Fiske said he expects the county to reject the claims, and then he will file a lawsuit.
The claims state the county dumped toxic chemicals on and around the airport in the 1960s. The toxic chemicals listed in the claims are TCE, waste solvents, lubricants and fuel.
Claimants allege damages could exceed $1 million per person. Well contamination has resulted in property damage, diminished property values, cleanup costs, medical monitoring, bodily injury and emotional distress, according to the claims.
Many of the claims also discuss the cost of treating well water with reverse osmosis systems, carbon filters and chlorination. Such treatment systems typical cost about $11,000.
Long-term exposure to TCE can cause liver or kidney damage and lead to an increased risk of cancer.
The regional water board is requiring the airport to sample soil gas and groundwater to determine the source of well pollution in the area. Soil gas sampling measures the vapors in the soil.
Airport officials must submit a work plan explaining how they will search the property for possible sources of groundwater contamination. The work plan is due Friday.