The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday it has reached a tentative $6.5 million settlement with 145 parties to clean up groundwater contamination for up to four miles around a Superfund site in Whittier.
“We are pleased that this settlement will help address the groundwater contamination to which these companies and others have contributed,” EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud said of the former Omega Chemical Corp. site. “Ensuring the protection of a vital drinking water source for L.A. County is one of the priorities in getting this site cleaned up.”
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period, but has been agreed to by parties that each sent one to three tons of waste to the Omega Chemical site. The property was previously the location of a recycling company and is marked by extensive soil and groundwater contamination, according to the EPA.
The $6.5 million is expected to provide funding for cleanup activities on the site and for about four miles of contaminated groundwater that extends beyond the property line into Whittier, Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk.
The EPA spent more than $42 million between 1999 and April 2019 to clean up hazardous chemicals at and around the site and has recovered in excess of $27 million from potentially responsible parties through a series of settlement agreements, according to the federal agency.
The Omega Chemical Corp. was a refrigerant and solvent recycling facility at 12504 and 12512 E. Whittier Blvd. that operated between 1976 and 1991. It handled drums and bulk loads of industrial waste solvents and chemicals that were used in processing commercial products.
More than 2,700 drums as well as more than 12,500 pounds of contaminants have been removed from the soil and groundwater, according to the EPA, which said its efforts have included treatment of more than 30 million gallons of contaminated groundwater since 2009.
Subsurface soil and groundwater at and around the site have high concentrations of trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, Freons and other contaminants. Consumption of high levels of TCE and PCE for extended periods of time can cause damage to the nervous system, liver and lungs and increase the risk of cancer.
Since 2010, a soil vapor extraction system has operated to address potentially harmful vapors emanating from the Omega site.
The location was designated a Superfund site in 1999 and added to the Superfund National Priorities list the same year.
In 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California approved a settlement that required a group of 66 companies to spend an estimated $70 million to install wells and operate a groundwater treatment system. The companies were also required to reimburse the EPA $8 million for earlier clean up work.
More information on the most recent settlement can be found at www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/05/20/2020-10836/notice-of-proposed-administrative-settlement-agreement-and-order-on-consent-with-de-minimis-parties. More data on the site is available at www.epa.gov/superfund/omegachemical.
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