Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
United Heckathorn Co.
EPA #: CAD981436363
County: Contra Costa
Congressional District: 07
Other Names: Levin Richmond/Parr Canal Site
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Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Final
Proposed Date: 10/26/89
Final Date: 03/14/90
The United Heckathorn Superfund site is located in Richmond Harbor, an inlet of San Francisco Bay, in Contra Costa County, CA. It includes five acres of land and about 15 acres of marine sediments in two channels (Lauritzen and Parr) of Richmond Harbor. From 1947 through 1966, several companies, including R.J. Prentiss, Heckathorn and Company, United Heckathorn, United Chemetrics, and Chemwest Inc. used the site to formulate, package, and ship pesticides. No chemicals were manufactured on site. Heckathorn would receive technical grade pesticides from chemical manufacturers, grind them in air mills, mix them with other ingredients such as clays or solvents, and package them for final use in liquid or powder form. Although many pesticides were handled at United Heckathorn, dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) accounted for approximately 95 percent of Heckathorn's operations. United Heckathorn went bankrupt in 1966. By 1970, the facility buildings had been demolished and cleared from the site. The Levin-Richmond Terminal Corporation purchased the site in 1981 and currently operates a marine shipping terminal at the location of the former United Heckathorn facility. Although this is an industrial area, approximately 10,900 people live within one mile of the site.
During United Heckathorn's operation, regulatory agencies occasionally inspected the facility. During a site visit in 1960, the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board observed bulk storage of pesticides and solvents, leaking solvent pump lines, spills, and waste discharges. Subsequently, the California Department of Fish and Game discovered dead fish in the Lauritzen Channel and, on a separate inspection, it observed a milky liquid emanating from the site into the Lauritzen Channel. In 1980, the California Department of Health Services inspected and sampled the site as part of the Abandoned Site Project. Chlorinated pesticides and metals were detected in soil samples, and the area was designated a State Superfund site in March 1982. In March 1990, U.S. EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List, and in August of that year assumed lead agency status. Remedial actions at the site took place from 1990 through 1999. They included excavation of heavily contaminated areas, dredging of Lauritzen Channel and Parr Canal, and construction of a cap over 4-1/2 acres of the site. Post-remediation monitoring found that unacceptably high levels of pesticides remain in Lauritzen Channel. EPA conducted additional investigation to determine the source and extent of the remaining contamination from 2002 - 2007. EPA conducted fish sampling in the Lauritzen channel and adjacent areas in Summer 2008.
Contaminants and Risks
- Surface Water
- Soil and Sludges
- Environmentally Sensitive Area
Although actions were taken to reduce the risk from the pesticides found on site (see next section, "Cleanup Approach"), sediments and the water in the Lauritzen Channel are still contaminated with pesticides, primarily DDT and dieldrin. Levels are high enough to pose a threat to wildlife who feed in or around the water. Since these pesticides bioaccumulate in fish, people who subsistence fish at the site run the risk of exposure to unacceptably high levels of DDT and dieldrin. Because of this, the state of California issued an advisory against eating fish from the Lauritzen Channel. The advisory is still in effect.
Who is Involved
This site is being addressed through Federal, State, and potentially responsible parties' actions.
Investigation and Cleanup Activities
This site was addressed in three stages: immediate actions and a long-term remedial phase focusing on cleanup of the sediments and then the soils. The immediate actions consisted of excavation of highly contaminated on-site soils. Long-term actions included dredging the channels to remove contaminated sediments and then capping about 4-1/2 acres of land to prevent erosion and exposure to residual levels of pesticides in soils.
Immediate Actions: Under a Unilateral Order issued by the EPA in September 1990, the potentially responsible parties removed approximately 1,450 cubic yards of pesticide residue and contaminated soil from the shoreline to the foundation of the former Heckathorn Building 1. Another 1,800 cubic yards of pesticide residue and contaminated soil were excavated in April 1991. A final soil removal action occurred in 1993. Excavated material contained as much as 100 percent DDT.
Entire Site: In 1994, the EPA completed investigations that determined the nature and extent of contamination at the site. Based on the results of this investigation, late in 1994 the EPA recommended dredging marine sediments that are contaminated with DDT and dieldrin and shipping them to an approved disposal facility. EPA recommended capping the area of the former facility with an impermeable barrier to prevent erosion and exposure to residual amounts of pesticides in soils.
Dredging of Parr Canal and Lauritzen Channel occurred from August 1996 to March 1997. Approximately 2,620 cubic yards of sediment were removed from Parr Canal in August 1996. Dredging of Lauritzen Channel proved more difficult because of the extensive amount of debris found in the channel. Approximately 187 tons of salvaged metal were retrieved from the channel in addition to the 105,000 cubic yards of sediment. In April 1997, both channels were sampled to confirm that the bulk of the contaminated sediments had been removed. Before remediation, median total DDT concentration was 47,000 ug/kg at the head of Lauritzen Channel and 840 ug/kg at Parr Canal; after remediation, the average DDT concentrations were 263 ug/kg in Lauritzen Channel and 200 ug/kg in Parr Canal. After dredging, clean sand was applied across the bottom of both channels to assist with re-establishment of benthic organisms.
The upland 4-1/2 acre area of the site was capped. Cap installation occurred in three steps: site grading to promote surface run-off to collection points; installation of a drainage system to collect surface run-off; and construction of a reinforced concrete cap in areas used for material stockpiling and of a geotextile fabric and gravel cap in low traffic areas. Cap construction began in July 1998 and was finished in July 1999.
Upland cap area: The annual operation and maintenance report and the Five-Year Reviews indicate the upland cap is still protective and functioning as intended.
Marine area: The Five-Year Reviews of the site determined that cleanup goals for the surface water and sediments for the marine area have not been maintained.
Although confirmation sampling after dredging recorded DDT levels below the cleanup goal of 590 ug/kg, post remediation monitoring (water, sediment and mussels) showed elevated levels of DDTs that greatly exceeded the cleanup goals. A Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) is underway to evaluate alternatives to clean up the remaining contamination.
In May 2011, the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) issued an updated fish advisory that recommended no consumption of fish from the Lauritzen Channel and recommended limited consumption of fish from San Francisco Bay.
The report is available on OEHHA’s website at http://www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/nor_cal/2011SFbay.html
On September 30, 2011, the Third Five-Year Review Report was approved for this site and it is available for public review at Richmond Public Library or in the Technical Document Section below.
The 2011 Five-Year Review concluded that:
1. The remedy implemented at the upland area of the United Heckathorn Superfund Site is protective of human health and the environment, due to capping of contaminated soils which has eliminated human exposure pathways and prevented erosion. Routine inspection and monitoring is ongoing at the Site.
2. The remedy implemented at the marine area of the Site is not protective because DDT concentrations in sediment, water and biota remain a potential exposure risk to human health and the environment. Fishermen and their families may be exposed to contaminants if fish or other edible biota from the Lauritzen Channel are consumed. The updated State of California fish advisory warns against consumption of any fish from the Lauritzen Channel.
EPA conducted several field investigations in 2012 and 2013 to prepare for the upcoming Focused Feasibility Study, including a bathymetric survey, sediment sampling, mussel sampling, water sampling, fish sampling, particle tracking, current monitoring, groundwater monitoring, and other activities. EPA is currently analyzing the results and developing cleanup options. EPA will then recommend its preferred alternative, which will be made available for public comment in a Proposed Plan prior to the final decision on the remedy.
Cleanup Results to Date
Since 1997, the removal of contaminated soils and sediments has greatly reduced the potential for exposure to pesticide contaminants from the United Heckathorn site. However, unacceptable levels of DDT and dieldrin remain in the waters and sediments of Lauritzen Channel. EPA is in the process of preparing a focused feasibility study to address the remaining contamination. In October 2012, EPA installed a flap gate on the storm water outfall in the Lauritzen Channel to prevent DDT and dieldrin-contaminated sediment from moving in and out of the system during high tide.
Potentially Responsible Parties
Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) refers to companies that are potentially responsible for generating, transporting, or disposing of the hazardous waste found at the site.
In 1996, EPA entered into four Consent Decrees with various PRPs to address cleanup of the site. The major PRPs are Levin Richmond Terminal Corporation, Shell International, and Montrose Chemical Corporation.
Documents and Reports
Public Meetings: EPA provides written and/or oral updates to the City of Richmond on a regular basis; the most recent presentations are available in the Community Involvement Section above.
On Monday, December 3, 2012, EPA held a technical assistance follow-up meeting at Richmond Build III Facility at 500 23rd Street, Richmond, CA. The purpose of the meeting was to give an overview of the recommendations from the October 2012 Technical Assistance Needs Assessment (TANA) and discuss how these activities can be implemented. EPA has completed implementing the recommendations of the TANA, including preparing documents available in the Community Involvement section above.
On July 9, 2012, EPA conducted a United Heckathorn Technical Assistance Workshop at Richmond Build III Facility at 500 23rd Street, Richmond, CA. The workshop consisted of a short update on Site's Cleanup Action Plan, a brief overview of the Technical Assistance Services for Communities program and gathering of information from the community to include in a Technical Assistance Needs Assessment (TANA). The final TANA created as a result of this workshop and additional interviews of community stakeholders is available in the Community Involvement Section above.
On March 19, 2012, EPA held a United Heckathorn Community Meeting at the Richmond Community Foundation, 1014 Florida Ave.,Richmond, CA 94804. There was a short presentation on EPA's Action Plan and community involvement. There was also a poster board session before and after the presentation where staff addressed one-on-one comments and questions. EPA's poster boards from the community meeting are presented in the Document and Report Sections above.
In winter 2009, EPA briefed interested stakeholders including West County Toxic Coalition, Laotian Organizing Project (Asian Pacific Environmental Network organization), Mayor, City Manager and Planning Director of the City of Richmond, the Watershed Project, Citizens for East Shore Parks on the status of EPA's work at United Heckathorn. EPA continues to encourage all stakeholders who are interested in the site to keep in close touch with the EPA.
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
Richmond Public Library,
325 Civic Center Plaza,
Richmond, CA 94804
EPA Site Manager
Mail Code SFD
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Community Involvement Coordinator
Mail Code SFD
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Public Information Center
Berkeley, CA 94710-2721
Sandy Saeteurn, Asian Pacific Environmental Network
510-236-4616 ext. 303
Richmond, CA 94801
3727 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94805
After Hours (Emergency Response)