The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that a group of 66 companies have agreed to clean up contaminated groundwater at the Omega Chemical Corporation Superfund Site in Whittier, Calif. The settlement requires the companies to spend an estimated $70 million to install wells and operate a groundwater treatment system. In addition, the parties will reimburse EPA $8 million and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control $70,000 toward costs incurred in those agencies’ past cleanup actions at the site.
“We are pleased that the settling parties have come forward to do the work of cleaning up the groundwater contamination to which they and others contributed,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement makes excellent progress in cleaning up the Omega site and will also put additional systems in place to monitor and evaluate the level of contamination in order to guide future work.”
“Today’s settlement ensures the protection of a vital drinking water source for LA County,” said Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld of EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “The cleanup of this polluted aquifer is critical because groundwater in the region has been depleted because of the drought.”
“Our current drought has underscored the importance of protecting California’s groundwater resources,” said Director Barbara A. Lee of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. “It has taken a lot of work between state and federal agencies to get to this point and it is vital we begin the work of cleaning up this aquifer."
Design work on the new treatment system, extraction wells and piping will begin later this year and continue into 2017, with construction expected to begin in 2018. EPA will oversee the work, which will implement the cleanup remedy required by the Agency’s 2011 Record of Decision for three miles of the groundwater plume. The settling parties will also install and sample groundwater monitoring wells later this year to investigate and evaluate the remaining contaminated area at the site to determine what additional remediation is needed.
The former Omega Chemical Corporation facility operated from approximately 1976 to 1991 and was located at 12504 and 12512 Whittier Boulevard, across the street from a residential neighborhood and within one mile of several schools. It handled drums and bulk loads of industrial waste solvents and chemicals that were processed to form commercial products. Subsurface soil and groundwater have high concentrations of trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), freons and other contaminants. Drinking high levels of TCE and PCE for extended periods of time could cause damage to the nervous system, liver and lungs and increase risk of cancer.
The Omega Superfund Site was placed on Superfund’s National Priorities List in 1999 and extends from Whittier through Santa Fe Springs and into Norwalk. Over the last 20 years, EPA has overseen the removal of more than 2,700 drums as well as more than 9,000 lb of contaminants from the soil and groundwater. A soil vapor extraction system to address vapor intrusion from the Omega Site has been operating since 2010. A small groundwater pump and treatment system has treated more than 30 million gal of contaminated groundwater since 2009.
The settling parties include a group of 66 corporations that will conduct the work. An additional 171 parties that have either sent waste to the site or operated in the area and contributed to the contamination, have also agreed to fund a portion of the work.
The settlement, lodged in federal court in the Central District of California, will be posted in the Federal Register and available for public comment for a period of 30 days. The consent decree can be viewed on the Justice Department website: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html. The Justice Department also concurrently filed a complaint initiating the case that the consent decree resolves.