Southern California environment news and trends

EPA to control groundwater pollution at Montrose, Del Amo Superfund sites in Torrance


EPA crews have been cleaning up groundwater, soil, and soil vapor pollution at two sites in Torrance, including Del Amo, which used to be a synthetic rubber company. Superfund allows the government to go after property owners to seek payment for contamination on their lands.

Money for cleaning up Superfund sites comes in little pieces; it's just that, in this context, "little" means millions. The Montrose and De Amo chemical sites have yielded $14.6 million to the Environmental Protection Agency toward construction of a treatment system for contaminated groundwater in Torrance. EPA announced the consent decree and the treatment system it'll create:  

Once operational, the system will extract up to 700 gallons of water per minute, or a total of a million gallons each day, removing monochlorobenzene and benzene, and re-injecting the cleaned, treated water back into the aquifer. The treated water will not be served as drinking water, but will instead be re-injected to surround the contamination and prevent it from any further movement into unaffected groundwater areas.

Montrose Chemical put DDT, PCBs, and pesticides in sewers that flowed to the ocean from just after World War II to the early 1970s; chemicals left at the site seeped into groundwater. The Del Amo site next door was a synthetic rubber manufacturing company. Their plumes of pollution in aquifers commingled into one big seeping mess. 

Montrose, Bayer CropScience Inc., News Publishing Australia Limited, and Stauffer Management Company LLC are the companies paying this time around. At Del Amo, Shell started capping waste pits, removing soil-vapor chemical fumes, and extracting polluted water for treatment 13 years ago.  

If it feels like this has been going on for a while, you're right. What's notable here is that EPA isn't trying to rehabilitate that groundwater for human consumption; it's trying to control the contamination and prevent its spread. 

The new treatment system will be in place in 18 months; more cleanup measures come on line at Del Amo next year. In the meantime, check out these striking photos from the Montrose Chemical site by Elleni Sclaveniti. For her Industrial Los Angeles site, she characterized American industry as downscaling; I'm not sure if it's that, or if it has changed shape and location. More lyrically, she writes that "history becomes untethered from the past, its imprint now visible in the landscape, giving new meaning to what we see." 



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