$78 Million to Clean|SoCal Groundwater

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Sixty-six companies will pay $78 million to clean up polluted groundwater at the Omega Chemical Superfund Site in Whittier, Calif., the Department of Justice said Wednesday.
     Under terms of the settlement, the companies will spend $70 million to install wells and operate a groundwater treatment system. They will pay another $8 million to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and $70,000 to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for money already spent cleaning up the site.
     EPA spokesman Jared Blumenfeld said the settlement will ensure that a “vital drinking water source” for Los Angeles County is protected.
     High concentrations of trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, freon and other contaminants leaked into subsurface soil and groundwater at the site. Extended exposure to the chemicals can damage the nervous system, liver and lungs and increase the risk of cancer.
     “The cleanup of this polluted aquifer is critical because groundwater in the region has been depleted because of the drought,” Blumenfeld said.
     Extending from Whittier through Santa Fe Springs and into Norwalk, the Omega Chemical Corp. site was a refrigerant and recycling facility on Whittier Boulevard, close to a residential neighborhood and several schools. It handled drums of industrial waste, solvents and chemicals that it recycled into commercial products.
     As part of a 20-year effort, the EPA removed 2,700 drums and more than 9,000 pounds of pollutants from soil and groundwater.
     For the past six years, the EPA has extracted vapor contamination from the site and since 2009 has treated more than 30 million gallons of contaminated groundwater.
     Barbara Lee of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control said that the drought has underlined the importance of protecting groundwater.
     “It has taken a lot of work between state and federal agencies to get to this point and it is vital we begin the work of cleaning up this aquifer,” Lee said in a statement.
     Construction of a new treatment system, extraction wells and piping is scheduled to begin in 2018, with oversight from the EPA.
     “The settling parties will also install and sample groundwater monitoring wells later this year to investigate and evaluate the remaining contaminated area at the site to determine what additional remediation is needed,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.
     In addition to the 66 settling parties, 171 entities that sent waste to the site or contaminated the area have agreed to contribute to the cost of the cleanup, the government said.
     According to the EPA website, the status of human exposure and contaminated groundwater at the site is “not under control.”
     The settlement was filed in the Northern District of California.

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