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City sues over groundwater contamination near Qualcomm Stadium

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SAN DIEGO — Enough is enough according to city officials, who announced a lawsuit Thursday over groundwater contamination near Qualcomm Stadium.

Fuel Tanks Near Qualcomm Stadiu“This lawsuit is about protecting our waterways, the taxpayers and our local water supply,” said San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, along with several City Council members, say the groundwater has been contaminated for decades and is only being partially treated.

“Pollution gets worse if left unattended,” said Goldsmith, who announced the lawsuit outside Qualcomm Stadium Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed against Kinder Morgan, which is the company responsible for cleaning up the decades-old fuel spill, and against the entity charged with overseeing that clean up, the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“This fuel leak has been a persistent black eye for the city of San Diego,”  said Councilman Kevin Faulconer.

In 1986, the tank farm west of Interstate 15 and Friars Road spilled approximately 200,000 gallons of fuel.  In 1992, a clean up was ordered, but Goldsmith said the city is still dealing with the problem.  He said the groundwater is only being partially treated and that 1.2 million gallons of polluted water are pumped into Murphy Canyon Creek every day.

“This discharge permit that allows this groundwater to go into the creek, flow down the San Diego River and out to our beaches and bays is unacceptable,”  said Faulconer.

Kinder Morgan in a written statement called the lawsuit ill-advised and without merit. The company said it has spent more than $60 million to clean the contamination, which predates their ownership of the tank farm.  The city filed a federal lawsuit in 2007, but that judge sided with Kinder Morgan, citing a statute of limitations.  Goldsmith said this issue also deters potential developers.

“If we’re going to use this site in some way to address the stadium, we need to address this, because a developer wants to know what the extent of the pollution is and whether it can be built on,”  said Goldsmith.

Dave Gibson, executive officer for the Regional Water Quality Control Board, released this statement:

“We are evaluating the lawsuit and it’s our policy not to comment on pending litigation.  However, we are confident with the manner in which we have been regulating the clean up now being carried out by Kinder Morgan.”

Kinder Morgan also sent Fox 5 a statement that reads, in part:

“The RWQCB required Kinder Morgan to complete cleanup of the soil on the stadium property by December 31, 2010, and Kinder Morgan has done that.  Kinder Morgan continues to make substantial progress on the remediation of groundwater underlying the stadium property and is on target to meet the Dec. 31, 2013 deadline for this clean-up as well.

For nearly a decade, Kinder Morgan has offered, and continues to offer, the treated water, which meets drinking water standards for the petroleum contaminants of concern, to the City instead of discharging such treated water to Murphy Canyon Creek as provided in its permit.  The City has rejected all such offers. “