The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced three settlements totalling more than $6.6 million to help pay for groundwater cleanup at the South El Monte portion of the San Gabriel Valley Area 1 Superfund Site in Los Angeles.
EPA has recovered a total of $25 million for the South El Monte cleanup, with the latest $6.6 million to pay for extraction and treatment of groundwater polluted with industrial solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), a chemical once common in dry cleaning operations.
According to the EPA site overview, the San Gabriel Valley Area 1 site is an area of contaminated groundwater over 4 miles long and 1½ miles wide located in the San Gabriel Valley. In 1984, the EPA identified four large areas of groundwater contamination in the San Gabriel Valley (pdf); each area is a separate Superfund site. The sites include four large areas of groundwater contamination that underlie significant portions of the Cities of Alhambra, Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Industry, El Monte, La Puente, Monrovia, Rosemead, South El Monte, West Covina, and other areas of the 170 square-mile San Gabriel Valley. Over 30 square miles of groundwater under the Valley may be contaminated.
Contamination of the groundwater by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was first detected in 1979 when Aerojet Electrosystems in Azusa sampled nearby wells in the Valley County Water District. Subsequently, the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) initiated a well sampling program to assess the extent of contamination. By 1984, 59 wells were found to be contaminated with high levels of VOCs. Hundreds of individual facilities could be contributing to the contamination in the basin through improper handling and disposal practices. The area of contamination parallels the San Gabriel River to the east. The basin’s groundwater provides approximately 90 percent of the domestic water supply for over 1,000,000 people who live in the Valley. Over 400 water supply wells are used in the basin to extract groundwater for industrial, business, agricultural, and domestic uses. Forty-five different water suppliers operate in the basin and provide drinking water to more than 1,000,000 people. In 1992, EPA completed construction of a water treatment plant for the Richwood Mutual Water Company to assist them in providing water that meets drinking water standards.
Jared Blumenthal, EPA Region 9 administrator, said of the recent settlements:
EPA remains committed to pursuing parties responsible for environmental damage in the San Gabriel Valley. So far, more than ten billion gallons of water have been treated to provide safe drinking water for the local communities.
The three settlement claims were brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) against eleven current or former landowners and operators of business facilities that contributed to the contamination in South El Monte. The first of the recent consent decrees was entered on April 13, 2012. The second and third consent decrees were lodged on May 15, 2012. The consent decrees will soon be posted here. The eleven responsible parties are Quaker Chemical Corporation; Art Weiss, Inc.; Astro Seal, Inc.; Craneveyor Corp.; EBA, Inc. D/b/a Earl Butler & Associates; M&T, LLC; Mary Brkich; New Air, Inc.; Pacific Coast Drum Co.; Seachrome Corporation; and Linderman Living Trust A.
EPA signed an interim Record of Decision (pdf) with the goal of containing contaminated groundwater at the site in 2000 and issued an Explanation of Significant Differences (pdf) to address new contaminants in 2005. The San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority implements the cleanup under a Cooperative Agreement with EPA. The agreement funds groundwater extraction and treatment systems operated by the City of Monterey Park, San Gabriel Valley Water Company, and Golden State Water Company.