Environmental Protection

EPA Directs PCB Cleanup at Greka Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has directed Greka Oil and Gas to thoroughly evaluate their Bradley 3 Island facility and develop a plan to clean up polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at the site.

"The EPA is focused on ensuring an effective clean-up remedy for the site because PCBs are a highly toxic substance," said Daniel Meer, chief of the Response, Planning and Assessment Branch for the Superfund Division in the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "Greka is responsible for the PCB cleanup, and the EPA will closely monitor their performance."

During a heavy rainstorm on Jan. 26, 2008, a power pole with three PCB-contaminated transformers collapsed inside the facility and released its contents. The oil inside the transformers was contaminated with low levels of PCBs. The contaminated oil mixed with rainwater and spread throughout the site, also migrating into the adjacent creek.

In the days following the release, EPA contractors collected samples of water and sediments from Greka's facility and the nearby creek. The samples indicated PCB contamination above acceptable thresholds. The creek has been identified as a habitat and breeding ground for the endangered tiger salamander.

The order mandates investigation and cleanup remedies necessary to protect public health and welfare and the environment. It requires Greka to hire clean-up contractors who must fully characterize the extent of contamination within the facility and creek; develop a sampling plan; and remove PCB contamination from the facility and creek. As part of this agreement, Greka must submit weekly written progress reports to EPA

PCBs released into the environment take decades to slowly degrade and are suspected carcinogens. When ingested by people or animals, PCBs are stored in the fatty tissue and then are slowly released into the blood stream. Even at low exposure levels, the concentration of PCBs in fatty tissue can accumulate to a high level. As PCBs bioaccumulate in organisms and biomagnify in the food chain, they create health hazards at all levels. The short-term health hazards associated with PCB exposure for people include irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. High, acute exposures can damage the liver, and in some extreme cases, cause death.

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