Environment & Science

EPA says $70 million treatment needed at Whittier Superfund site

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Federal environmental officials say a $70 million cleanup is the best way to protect drinking water resources under a Superfund site in Whittier.

Through the 1970s and '80s, Omega Chemical Corporation handled and disposed of industrial solvents and recycled refrigerants from commercial refrigerators and freezer coils. The company left behind dozens of leaky and rusty drums of toxic chemicals.

Soil at the site tested for high concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has monitored wells at the site for the last 16 years or so.

The plume of contamination in water that moves underground is four miles long; the solvents in it are known to cause cancer. Under the chosen remedy, millions of dollars will pay for pumping that water out of an underground aquifer, treating it to make it drinkable, then re-injecting it underground.

Deciding on a plan doesn’t mean EPA has the money in hand. Instead, regulators are seeking compensation from the polluting companies the agency holds responsible.