EPA Adds South Gate Industrial Facilities to List of Worst Toxic Sites in Nation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is adding two new sites to the Superfund National Priorities List in Los Angeles: Southern Avenue Industrial Area site and Jervis B. Webb Co., former industrial facilities located in South Gate.

Last year, EPA proposed to add both sites to the list due to soil and groundwater contamination. Volatile organic compounds, including elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), commonly used as a solvent for cleaning metal parts, have been confirmed in the soils and groundwater at these sites. With today’s action, these two sites are now finalized on the Superfund list. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country.

“These industrial plants are located in the I-710 corridor, a priority area for EPA, where low-income and minority populations are overburdened by pollution,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Now that these sites are officially on the Superfund list, EPA will begin full-scale investigations of the contaminated soil and drinking water sources.”

South Gate is one of several densely populated communities closest to the I-710 freeway, where the effects of pollution are disproportionately higher than in other areas of Los Angeles County. Approximately one million people, about 70 percent of whom are minority and low-income households, are severely impacted by industrial activities and goods movement in the area. In a multi-year effort, federal, state, and local governments and nonprofit organizations are working together to improve the environmental and public health conditions for residents along this corridor.

TCE contamination in the groundwater at Southern Avenue Industrial Area and Jervis B. Webb Co. was found at levels up to 17,000 ppb (parts per billion) and 35,000 ppb respectively. The federal Maximum Contaminant Level for TCE in drinking water is 5 ppb. The MCL is the highest level of a contaminant allowed in drinking water. Although the drinking water supply wells immediately downgradient of the two sites are located in a deeper aquifer and are not currently contaminated, because the aquifers are connected, there is the potential that drinking water wells may become contaminated. There are at least 35 drinking water wells within 4 miles of the site, serving approximately 226,000 people.

From 1972 through to the present day, the Southern Avenue Industrial Area site has been occupied by a facility that manufactures hot-melt adhesive tape for laying carpets. Prior to 1972, Pacific Screw Products Corp. manufactured screw products at the property until the business went bankrupt.

The Jervis B. Webb Co. conducted metal fabrication, finishing, painting and assembly operations associated with the manufacture of industrial conveyor belt systems from the 1950s to 1996 on a portion of the Jervis B. Webb Co. site. In 1997, Reliable Steel, Inc. purchased this portion of the site. Blake Rivet Co. leased another portion of the site until approximately 1981. Blake Rivet produced aluminum and stainless steel aircraft rivets.

Since 1983, 1,664 sites have been listed on the NPL. Of these sites, 359 sites have been completely cleaned up, resulting in 1,305 sites currently on the Superfund list (including those added today). There are 59 proposed sites awaiting final agency action.

With all Superfund listed sites, EPA works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and require them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the new sites without financially viable responsible parties, EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting significant cleanup at the site.