The state has offered to clean up a contaminant discovered in Gilbert’s groundwater and soil.
The proposal made Thursday by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality director Steve Owens comes nearly eight months after the presence of the industrial solvent perchloroethylene, or PCE, was publicly disclosed, and two days after the Gilbert Town Council met in closed session to discuss "pending or contemplated litigation regarding groundwater contamination."
"This is an extremely positive step and we look forward to getting the matter resolved," Town Manager George Pettit said.
The contaminant discovered near a former copper sulfate production facility southeast of Cooper and Guadalupe roads has not reached Gilbert’s drinking water, according to samples collected by DEQ.
State funding could be available in a couple of months to begin assessing the extent of the contamination, develop a cleanup strategy and work toward recovering the costs from the company that caused the contamination, Owens said. Unichem operated the facility between 1979 and 1983, but Owens said he’s not ready at this point to identify them as the responsible party.
The entire process could take years and a projected cost is not available, Owens said.
Pettit said he could not comment on what was discussed in Tuesday’s closed session with the council or whether it related to Thursday’s announcement. He did say the town was working closely with DEQ for about six months to find a solution to the problem.
Owens said his decision was not based on Gilbert’s closed-door meeting.
"Our understanding is Gilbert is interested in looking for any potential parties that might be responsible," Owens said. "At some point, our efforts might overlap."