Southern California environment news and trends

EPA announces another $6.6 million in settlement money for San Gabriel Valley Superfund site

EPA

Southern California’s contributions to the Superfund list may be swelling, but so are the federal government’s coffers for cleanup of those old toxic sites. The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s arrived at three new settlements for cleanups in the San Gabriel Valley. This time around, the action stems from what companies did in South El Monte in what’s called Area 1 of this particular Superfund site.

Eleven current or former business owners agreed to pay a total of $6.6 million dollars toward cleanup: Quaker Chemical, Art Weiss, Inc., Astro Seal, Craneveyor Corporation, Earl Butler & Associates, M&T, Mary Brkich, New Air, Inc., Pacific Coast Drum Co., Seachrome Corporation, and Linderman Living Trust A. 

The money will go to the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority, the agency specifically created to run cleanup work in the region. It’s got an agreement with the EPA, under which the feds provide money from settlements like these for the purpose of extracting and treating contaminated water.  

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Song of the Week: "Dig Deep," by Sweet Pea Atkinson, for groundwater contamination, chrome-6 wells

Radioactive Rosca/Flickr

Chromium is a steely-gray, lustrous, hard metal that takes a high polish and has a high melting point. It is also odorless, tasteless, and malleable. Also, the EPA is testing for it in the San Fernando Valley.

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would fill in some data holes by digging some holes (well, okay, wells) to test groundwater contamination at 30 new sites in North Hollywood, Burbank, and Glendale. EPA will spend $3.2 million on this groundwater contamination testing, most of it from "potentially responsible parties" including Goodrich, Lockheed Martin, PRC DeSoto, and ITT. 

They're looking for chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium. (If that rings a bell, it's because of Hinkley. You know, Erin Brockovich.) It's an element used in stainless steel, magnetic tapes, cement, rubber, protective coatings on metal, composite floors, and leather tanning. Sometimes the contamination's referred to as a plume; investigators are still learning about how those plumes move underground among substrate layers of sediment. Chromium 6 is also a cancer causer; the Centers for Disease Control has a FAQ about chromium hazards and risks.

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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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