Southern California environment news and trends

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. 


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. 


Superfund site of the week: Polluters paying in the San Gabriel Valley

This week we continue looking at the Superfund site that is the San Gabriel valley, or a fifth of it, anyway. 

(Read last week's intro to this Superfund site.)

The polluter pays principle is a big part of Superfund law and it's important at this site. It's pretty straightforward: You make a big huge toxic, hazardous, cancerous mess? You're on the hook for putting everything back as close to the way it was as possible. 

The San Gabriel Valley is more or less in favor of cleaning up the Superfund site there lake this. It wasn't always that way; federal and local governments once were divided about taking money out of the pockets of corporate citizens of the valley. Local public officials criticized the federal government's interest in shaking the polluter-money tree. In the mid-1990's, Democratic congressman Esteban Torres wrote, "After 10 years of confusion, power struggles and bureaucratic inaction, the community in the San Gabriel Valley is no longer convinced that Superfund, under the direction of the EPA, is going to solve their problem."


Superfund site of the Week: (Almost a fifth of) The San Gabriel Valley

(Photo by Patricia Mateos Ballestero for The Toxies via Physicians for Social Responsibility.)


In commemoration of news that the Environmental Protection Agency got $4.4 million and change to help pay for cleanup costs at this site, Pacific Swell's Superfund site of the week is the San Gabriel Valley. (It'll be next week's too, in fact.)

We reported the EPA announcement of two consent decrees - civil settlements in which companies that in the past operated on land and may have polluted it agree to give the government money to clean it up to resolve their liability. To understand why the EPA went after those companies, it's helpful to take the Wayback Machine to 1979, where, though it was the year of Blondie's "The Tide is High," other important things happened.

That's when evidence of contamination first showed up in a San Gabriel Valley water well. It was connected to a massive aquifer in the valley - think water reservoir, but underground. But much as you can't really dust for vomit (R.I.P, Stumpy Joe), tracing the source of chemicals in a massive reservoir underground ain't easy.


Superfund site of the Week: Stoker Chemical in Imperial County

Without further ado, we're presenting this week's Superfund site a few days late. (Ado, in this case, being illness and earthquakes.)

What's interesting about the Stoker Company site isn't just that it's the only one in Imperial County. Stoker remains a proposed site, 20 years after it was listed on the federal register. 

Dead birds and fish brought the Stoker Company to the attention of local authorities in the late eighties. The dead wildlife was found in a pond, known as the D &K Duck Hunting Club; necropsies found pesticides in the wildlife. Officials traced the pesticides to a canal that edged the Stoker property on the south and eastern side. Stoker workers - there were 45 back in 1990 - rinsed off pesticide spraying equipment and the wash water ran off into the canal. Contamination spread over much of the site; contaminated dust became airborne and spread as well.