EPA Reaches Cleanup Agreements

News Item 1: Federal Government Reaches Superfund Agreement Worth About $1.2 million With Shell, GSA

On Oct. 17, EPA announced it has signed an agreement valued at approximately $1.2 million with the Shell Oil Co. and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for recovery of response costs at the Del Amo Superfund Waste Pits located in Los Angeles County, Calif.

The past costs to be paid by the settling parties are: Shell Oil Co., $398,821.91; GSA, $809,729.34.

The GSA is the federal department that inherited the liabilities of government-owned wartime industries. The former Del Amo facility was one such facility, having been built and owned by the U.S. government for the production of synthetic rubber during World War II. After the war, the government sold the facility to Shell, who continued to operate the plant until 1972.

"This settlement, and the innovative application of an environmentally friendly technology, have enabled EPA to effectively address the threat to groundwater from the Del Amo Superfund site waste pits," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA Region 9's Superfund Division. "We intend that in time, the waste pits area can be put to productive re-use."

The Del Amo Superfund site waste pits area was used as an industrial dump site between 1943 and 1972. Wastes -- including benzene, naphthalene and ethylbenzene -- contaminated the surrounding soil and groundwater. In September, 2002, the Del Amo facility was placed on the EPA's National Priorities List.

In 1999, Shell began cleaning up the Del Amo Superfund site, under EPA oversight, starting with a multi-layer impermeable cap over the waste pits and installation of the soil-vapor extraction (SVE) wells. In 2006, the SVE system began operating; cleanup is expected to take place for 10 to 15 years.

For more information on the Del Amo Superfund, go to http://www.epa.gov/region09/waste/sfund/superfundsites.html, click "Site Overviews" and scroll down to "Del Amo."

News Item 2: Cyprus Tohono Corp. Reaches Agreement To Clean Up Mine Site

On Oct. 16, EPA announced it recently reached an agreement with Cyprus Tohono Corp. requiring the company to clean up a portion of its 10,505-acre mine site responsible for contaminating groundwater on the Tohono O'odham Nation, 32 miles southwest of Casa Grande, Ariz.

Under the settlement, the company will clean up a 450-acre area that includes three evaporation ponds, mill tailings impoundment and a vat leach tailings embankment. Contaminated soil will be excavated, placed on a liner, and covered with a soil cap.

Two of the evaporation ponds and the mill tailings impoundment are considered to have contributed to groundwater contamination of an aquifer that was previously the sole source of drinking water for the North Komelik community. Area residents also have reported that in certain wind conditions dust from the mine blows up into North Komelik, creating potential inhalation of particulate contamination.

"Although the village is being provided clean drinking water in the short term, (this) action is necessary to protect public health in the long term," said Keith Takata, EPA's Superfund division director for the agency's Pacific Southwest region. "The work under the EPA order will minimize further contamination to the aquifer, as well as address exposure from contaminated soil."

Sulfate, a primary contaminant, has been found at 19,400 parts per million (ppm) in these areas, while background concentrations are less than 100 ppm. Uranium, another primary contaminant, has been measured at 7.98 ppm in the evaporation ponds, which are above .08 ppm background levels, agency officials stated.

For more information, contact EPA Region 9 at http://www.epa.gov/region09.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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