EPA Reaches Major Settlement For Groundwater Cleanup At San Gabriel Valley Site

Carrier Corp. and its parent company, United Technologies Inc., will be required to spend an estimated $27.8 million on projects and penalties for the cleanup of shallow groundwater contamination at the Puente Valley Operable Unit of the San Gabriel Valley Superfund site, Area 4 in Southern California.

Under a settlement with the federal government, announced on Aug. 22, Carrier Corp./United Technologies will spend an estimated $26.5 million to build a groundwater cleanup system that will involve the installation of wells to pump out contaminated groundwater and prevent it from continuing to migrate. Carrier Corp./United Technologies also will construct a treatment plant, or series of treatment plants, to remove the contaminants from the groundwater. The treated water may be provided to a local water supply distribution system or discharged to surface water.

As part of the settlement, Carrier Corp./United Technologies will spend $468,750 on an environmental project at a former duck farm overlying a portion of the contaminated groundwater at the site. The companies will primarily target the use of plants to cleanup low level soil contamination, groundwater recharge, or treatment wetlands at the former duck farm.

Under the terms of the consent decree lodged Aug. 17 with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, Carrier Corp./United Technologies Inc. also will:

  • Reimburse EPA $800,000 in past response costs and pay future oversight costs incurred by the agency.
  • Pay a $125,000 civil penalty for failing to comply with an EPA cleanup order issued to Carrier.
  • Monitor upgradient contamination.

"This settlement requires the cleanup of the shallow groundwater at the Puente Valley Operable Unit Superfund Site, which is an important step toward restoring this valuable drinking water source," said Keith Takata, director of the Superfund program of the U.S. EPA's Pacific Southwest Office. "The supplemental environmental project will benefit the area's families and wildlife."

The duck farm was purchased by the Trust for Public Land in 2001and sold in 2004 to the Watershed Conservation Authority, who plans to use the property for the benefit of the local community. The Watershed Conservation Authority works to improve open space opportunities for the conservation, restoration, and environmental enhancement of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers Watershed area.

The Puente Valley Operable Unit of the San Gabriel Valley Superfund site, Area 4 is an area of contaminated groundwater generally located beneath the city of Industry, Calif. and portions of the cities of La Puente and Walnut. Carrier Corp. used volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for degreasing, metal cleaning and other purposes, which contaminated groundwater at the Puente Valley Operable Unit. EPA listed several sections of the San Gabriel Valley as Superfund sites in 1984, including multiple areas of groundwater contaminated by VOCs.

The work to be performed by Carrier Corp./United Technologies implements a substantial portion of the EPA's interim site cleanup plan. Other portions of the cleanup plan are being addressed by other responsible parties. The EPA will ultimately develop a final cleanup plan for the site after the interim remedy has operated for a number of years.

The contaminated groundwater associated with all of the San Gabriel Valley sites lies under significant portions of Alhambra, Irwindale, La Puente, Rosemead, Azusa, Baldwin Park, City of Industry, El Monte, South El Monte, West Covina, and other areas of the San Gabriel Valley. There are 45 water suppliers in the Valley that use the San Gabriel Basin groundwater aquifer to provide 90 percent of the drinking water for more than one million people.

Additional information about this and other California Superfund sites can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region09/waste/sfund.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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