Southern California environment news and trends

A groundscraper for last week's Superfund site in Santa Fe Springs

Instead of exploring a new Superfund site this week, we're going to look at Waste Disposal Incorproated a bit further. While reading up on last week's Superfund site in Santa Fe Springs I came across a group called 58-12.org. When I got in touch with them, they told me the name comes from the Bible, Isaiah 58:12. "Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell." The founders of 58-12 are three UCLA graduates in law, business and architecture, who say they're inspired by this passage "to address the spatial and environmental needs of people and communities." 

At the WDI Superfund site in Santa Fe Springs, they imagine scraping all the sludge out of the ground (it's capped now) and putting, essentially, a building there, then surrounding the property with stacked containers for a green, dense, live-work area. It's radical in multiple senses.

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Superfund site of the week: Waste Disposal Inc. in Santa Fe Springs, from oil mecca to brownfield

California's oil boom gave birth to this week's Superfund site. While Santa Fe Springs' Waste Disposal Incorporated is garden variety, its history shows we're still learning about how to fix our messes (and explain them to the neighbors).

The property's not big; 38 acres on the east side of Santa Fe Springs. But in the early 1920's, demand for the Waste Disposal company's was big in the area. Oil boomed then, replacing groves of trees with forests of oil derricks. By 1929, Santa Fe Springs oil field was the state's largest producer of petroleum products. Producing oil created waste byproducts; site operators built a sunken concrete reservoir six hundred feet across and 25 feet deep to hold 42 million gallons of oil mud, crud and other nastiness. 

Under permit from L.A. county, property owners dumped drilling muds, steel mill slag, mud cake from oil field sumps, and acetylene sludge in the pool. EPA investigations later revealed  organic wastes, oil refinery wastes, solvents and petroleum-related chemicals dumped in there without permission. WDI covered the whole mess with 5 to 10 feet of dirt, and sold off small parcels to other businesses in the late sixties. 

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Song of the Week: "Superfund," by the Lower Echelon

The San Gabriel Valley Superfund site is a group of reservoirs and aquifers contaminated with degreasers, solvents, compounds, and other cancer-causing chemicals. We've been talking about it on Pacific Swell for several Mondays. This week the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Northrop Grumman to spend 20 million dollars to install wells and filters for contaminated water at the Puente part of the site, in the City of Industry. 

Dedicated to the EPA, this week's song is "Superfund," by The Lower Echelon.  

It's a great mental degreaser, and it's non-cancerous (in my limited exposure so far; not tested by the FDA or on lab rats). 

The Lower Echelon is a band I happened upon by accident in some google search action. They seem to be active around northeast LA in the last couple of years (Mr. T's Bowl in Highland Park on Figueroa, Universal Bar & Grill, Tangier), so they're a home slice of post-punk incendiaryness. 

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Our Superfund site of the week gets $20 million for cleanup from Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman will pay 20 million dollars for a cleanup well at a former Benchmark Technology facility in the City of Industry. That's within Area 4 of the San Gabriel Valley Superfund cleanup site. Northrop has already put at least 10 million dollars into the site's cleanup - the other money spent after a 1989 order handed to the company by regional water regulators. 

We're following this for news. Check back for more here as well. 

UPDATE, 2:34 PM: Cleanup has been underway for decades at the Benchmark Technology site in the City of Industry, with Northrop is already paying for it. In announcing this new cleanup order, the federal Environmental Protection Agency also says it's taking jurisdiction over the shallow-level contamination site that water regulators have checked in on for decades. 

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Superfund site of the week: Monitoring and wells in the San Gabriel valley

Over the last couple of weeks we've talked about the kind of chemicals in the San Gabriel Valley and the way polluters are held responsible there for the presence of those chemicals. Our Superfund Site of the Week remains the SGV. This time around we talk about where the chemicals are, who keeps track, and how. 

In EPA lingo, the chemicals are in cleanup projects called "operable units." The San Gabriel Valley Superfund problem is actually four areas of groundwater contamination. Within those sites, area one has five cleanup projects (El Monte, Richwood, South El Monte, Suburban Water Systems, and Whittier Narrows). Area 2 is Baldwin Park. Area 3 is Alhambra. Area 4 is Puente Valley. So, eight operable units all together. 

Cleanup at those units is the job of the EPA, the regional water board, and one specially created local organization. California's state legislature created the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority to administer federal and California money for groundwater treatment programs. The authority's authority extends over the San Gabriel Valley, Three Valley, and Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water Districts, as well as cities in the region whose water doesn't come through those districts. 

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