Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
San Gabriel Valley (area 2) Baldwin Park
EPA #: CAD980818512
County: Los Angeles
City: Azusa, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, West Covina, La Puente, Industry
Congressional District: 31
A new (January 2014) progress report is available on cleanup of the groundwater in the San Gabriel Valley.
More than 75 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater have been treated, 60,000 lbs. of contaminants removed from the groundwater, 48,000 lbs. of contaminants removed from the soil, and $200 million spent on the cleanup.
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Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Final
Proposed Date: 09/08/83
Final Date: 05/08/84
The San Gabriel Valley Area 2 Superfund Site is one of four Superfund sites addressing groundwater contamination in the San Gabriel Valley. The four sites address multiple areas of contamination in the San Gabriel Basin aquifer, a critical source of drinking water for water-scarce Southern California. The Superfund sites include areas of soil and groundwater contamination underlying portions of the cities of Alhambra, Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Industry, Irwindale, El Monte, La Puente, Monrovia, Rosemead, South El Monte, and West Covina. The San Gabriel Valley covers approximately 170 square miles.
Groundwater contamination was first detected in the San Gabriel Valley in 1979. Following this discovery, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH, formerly the Department of Health Services) analyzed water samples collected from water supply wells throughout the Valley to assess the extent of contamination. By 1984, 59 wells were found to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In the late 1990s, perchlorate, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), and 1,4-dioxane were also discovered in the groundwater.
Despite the widespread contamination, the San Gabriel Basin aquifer continues to provide the majority of the domestic water supply for the Valley's one and one-half million residents. Water utilities in the area have continued to provide their customers with clean water by blending contaminated water with clean water to meet drinking water standards, obtaining water from neighboring utilities, and installing wellhead treatment systems. EPA's Superfund projects are providing additional water supplies, by providing treated groundwater to several water utilities for local use.
EPA's efforts at the sites began in the mid-1980s with studies needed to understand the sources, nature and extent of soil and groundwater contamination. In the 1980s and early 1990s, EPA also developed a basin-wide plan to set cleanup priorities, and led State and Federal efforts to develop the institutional framework necessary to address the contamination.
In the early 1990s, EPA divided the San Gabriel Valley into eight project areas, including the Baldwin Park area. In 1994, EPA adopted the cleanup plan for the Baldwin Park project. Between 1990 and 1997, EPA identified Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) at the site. In the late 1990s, PRPs engaged in negotiations with local water agencies and began initial design work on the project. After reaching a detailed agreement with seven local water agencies in March 2002, design work was completed and construction work began. Construction of the four planned groundwater extraction and treatment facilities was largely completed in 2006. As of December 2011, more than $220 million has been spent to construct and operate the groundwater cleanup facilities, more than 59 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater has been treated, and more than 52,000 pounds of contamination removed from the ground water. Additional details are provided below.
EPA conducted its first "Five-Year review" of the project in 2007 and its second "Five-Year Review" in September 2012. Reports summarizing the findings of the 2007 and 2012 reviews are available in the "Technical Documents" section below. Comprehensive annual performance evaluation reports for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 are also available on-line (see Site Documents and Reports below). The comprehensive annual performance evaluation report for 2012 was completed in April 2013.
Contaminants and Risks
- Soil and Sludges
The Baldwin Park Operable Unit addresses multiple, commingled plumes of groundwater contamination that are over a mile in width and eight miles in length. The depth to the groundwater varies from about 150 to 350 feet, and the groundwater contamination extends from the water table to more than 1,000 feet below ground surface. The most prevalent contaminants in the groundwater are trichloroethene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), carbon tetrachloride, perchlorate, and N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). TCE, PCE, and carbon tetrachloride are solvents used for degreasing and cleaning; perchlorate is a component of solid-fuel rockets; and NDMA is associated with liquid-fuel rockets. Other contaminants are also present, including the chemical 1,4-dioxane, which has been used as a stabilizer in chlorinated solvents, and 1,2,3-trichloropropane. The peak contaminant concentration measured in groundwater in the Baldwin Park area is 38,000 ug/l PCE; more than 7500 times the maximum contaminant level (MCL) allowed by Federal and State laws.
Investigation and Cleanup Activities
The remedy at the site is a large-scale groundwater extraction and treatment (i.e., "pump and treat") system . Four pump and treat "sub-projects" have been built, having a combined treatment capacity of 26,000 gallons per minute (equivalent to 37 million gallons per day [MGD]). Each sub-project has two or more groundwater extraction wells and three or more water treatment processes (e.g., air stripping, granular activated carbon, ion exchange, advanced oxidation ) for removal of the contaminants from the groundwater.
In 1989, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region (RWQCB), working in accordance with an EPA-State Cooperative Agreement, began to identify the sources of the groundwater contamination in the Azusa/Baldwin Park area. The RWQCB inspected more than 1,400 commercial and industrial businesses in the area and required testing of soil and/or groundwater where contamination was observed or suspected. Using the test results, historical Federal, State and local records, responses to information requests, and other investigative techniques, EPA ultimately identified 21 parties as significant contributors to the groundwater contamination. The 21 companies have been named as PRPs. Hundreds of other companies have been sent "no further action" letters to inform them that EPA does not believe that they have contributed to the groundwater contamination.
From 1990 to 1993, EPA completed the Baldwin Park Operable Unit Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study, which included an investigation of the nature and extent of contamination in the Azusa/Irwindale/Baldwin Park area and an evaluation of cleanup options. The investigation included the compilation and analysis of sampling results from existing water supply wells, temporary reactivation and sampling of inactive water supply wells, installation of a 1,500-foot deep monitoring well, installation and sampling of more than two dozen shallow groundwater monitoring wells, development of a groundwater flow model, and preliminary discussions with local water agencies over their role in the cleanup. In 1993, EPA issued its proposed cleanup plan.
In March 1994, after review of hundreds of public comments, EPA selected a cleanup plan for the Baldwin Park area. The selected remedy, now constructed, includes four groundwater pump and treat systems capable of extracting and treating more than 26,000 gallons per minute, or 37 million gallons per day (MGD), of contaminated groundwater. The remedial objectives are to remove contaminants from the aquifer and prevent future increases in, and begin to reduce, concentrations of groundwater contaminants in the Baldwin Park area by limiting further migration of contaminated groundwater into clean and less contaminated areas or depths. The Record of Decision (ROD) specifies extraction of contaminated groundwater at the downgradient end of two broad subareas of contamination, at locations and rates sufficient to hydraulically contain contaminated groundwater moving through each subarea during all anticipated groundwater flow conditions. The ROD was updated by the Explanation of Significant Differences in May 1999 (see link below).
In 1995, a group of PRPs began to collect data needed to design the facilities called for in EPA's cleanup plan. The group, known as the Baldwin Park Operable Unit Steering Committee, installed and sampled a network of eight 700 to 1,000 foot deep multilevel groundwater monitoring wells and further developed a detailed groundwater flow model of the area. This work was completed in 1997.
At this time, negotiations also continued over the role of local water agencies in the cleanup.
Negotiations with the water agencies were initially focused on a proposal advocated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to export the treated groundwater produced by the cleanup to Metropolitan's customers elsewhere in Southern California. Despite many studies and hearings and much lobbying on behalf of the Metropolitan Plan (termed the "Consensus Plan" by one of its supporters), the plan was not implemented.
Instead, in 1998, local support shifted to an alternative plan proposed by the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster (a court-appointed entity responsible for administering the water rights agreement in the San Gabriel Basin). The Watermaster Plan proposed that the treated groundwater be used locally, and that local agencies play a major role in designing, building, and operating the cleanup facilities. The Watermaster Plan followed the June 1997 discovery of another contaminant in the groundwater at potentially unsafe levels. The contaminant was perchlorate, an inorganic constituent of solid rocket fuel. Two other chemicals, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and 1,4-dioxane, were also found in the groundwater in the Baldwin Park area after perchlorate was discovered. The originally planned treatment technologies (air stripping and/or granular activated carbon) are not capable of effectively removing perchlorate, NDMA, or 1,4-dioxane from water and, at the time, no proven perchlorate-removal technologies were available. The presence of perchlorate, NDMA, and 1,4-dioxane forced the closure of additional public water supply wells in the area, leading to renewed local interest in using the treated groundwater produced by the cleanup.
Also in 1997, EPA sent "Special Notice" letters to the 19 named PRPs to begin formal negotiations expected to result in a binding commitment by the PRPs, in the form of a Consent Decree, to design, construct, and operate the groundwater cleanup facilities. The negotiations were originally expected to conclude in late 1997, but were delayed following the discovery of perchlorate, NDMA, and 1,4-dioxane.
From 1997 to 1999, with EPA oversight, the Baldwin Park Operable Unit Steering Committee installed additional groundwater monitoring wells and carried out studies of perchlorate and NDMA removal technologies
In mid-1999, EPA resumed Consent Decree negotiations with the Potentially Responsible Parties and set a deadline for the PRPs to submit a "Good Faith Offer." In September, 11 of the 19 PRPs submitted an offer that met EPA's requirements for a "Good Faith Offer". EPA-PRP negotiations continued into early 2000, in an effort to translate the September 1999 offer into a binding commitment. EPA allowed negotiations to continue much longer than is typical because of strong local support for a negotiated settlement and because the PRPs kept their commitment to continue the design process during negotiations. The most difficult issues to resolve were the end-use of the treated groundwater, the role of the local Watermaster and water utilities in the cleanup, and repayment of EPA, State, and local funds spent on the cleanup. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the California Regional Water Quality Board (RWQCB) also participated in the negotiations.
Two other sets of negotiations occurred simultaneously. First, the PRPs negotiated among themselves to allocate liability for cleanup costs and responsibility for carrying out the cleanup work. Second, the PRPs and the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster continued their negotiations, with EPA as facilitator and with the help of an independent mediator, to resolve a number of issues, including the technology to be used for perchlorate removal, the number of treatment facilities to be constructed, local involvement in design, construction, and operation of the treatment facilities, and use of any public funds that may be available.
By June 2000, however, negotiations had not produced agreements between EPA and the PRPs, or between the PRPs and the Watermaster. EPA concluded that negotiations alone were unlikely to produce an agreement and, on June 30, 2000, issued a Unilateral Administrative Order ("the EPA Order") directing the 19 PRPs to complete the remedial design and make arrangements for the construction and operation of the groundwater extraction wells, treatment systems, and related cleanup facilities.
The PRPs complied with EPA's Order, but the design work required by the EPA Order was slowed by uncertainty over local involvement in the cleanup. Still unresolved in 2000 was the ultimate use of the treated groundwater, the selection of the perchlorate treatment technology, treatment facility locations, the extent to which existing water supply wells would be used as groundwater extraction locations, and the extent to which local water agencies would be involved in design and construction of the facilities. In January 2001 a 25-page preliminary agreement was reached between six water agencies and eight of the PRPs. Finally, in March 2002, after hundreds of hours of negotiations, active EPA mediation, assistance from professional third-party environmental mediators, multiple public hearings, and extensive media coverage, eight PRPs and seven water agencies signed a final comprehensive agreement. The 300-page Baldwin Park Project Agreement (available through a link below) commits the PRPs to fund the design, construction, and operation of the groundwater extraction, treatment, and conveyance facilities needed to satisfy EPA's cleanup goals and meet local water supply needs through 2017. The PRP-water agency agreement addresses funding and work responsibilities, and provides criteria for selection of water treatment technologies, establishes a cost consultant and risk manager, describes contracting requirements, requires payment of management and performance fees, requires efforts to obtain public funds, includes audit and insurance requirements, resolves certain lawsuits, and provides dispute resolution procedures.
The remedy has been constructed as four sub-projects, as described above under "Cleanup Approach". The first of the four sub-projects, the La Puente Valley County Water District project, was completed in 2000 and is now supplying the treated groundwater for potable use.
The second of the four sub-projects, the San Gabriel Valley Water Company B6 project, was substantially completed in 2004; and, in June 2005,
began supplying potable water to residents and businesses in the area.
Construction of the third sub-project, the Valley County Water District sub-project, was completed in 2005; and, in November 2005, began supplying
water to residents and businesses in the area.
Construction of the fourth and last sub-project, the San Gabriel Valley Water Company B5 sub-project, was substantially completed in 2006 and
began supplying water to residents and businesses in the area in July 2008.
|Subproject||Status||Design and Construction Cost (as of April 2011)||Treatment Capacity (gallons per minute)|
|La Puente Valley County Water District||Operating since 2000||$ 7 million||2500|
|SGVWC Plant B6||Operating since 2005||$36 million||7800|
|Valley County Water District||Operating since 2006||$58 million||7800|
|SGVWC Plant B5||Operation began 2007||$22 million||7800|
Remedial Action reports describing construction of each of the sub-projects are available by clicking on the links below under the heading
"Site Documents and Reports, Technical Documents." Also available in the "Technical Documents" section are the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012
Annual Performance Evaluation Reports, which include a discussion of the status of the cleanup and performance monitoring activities, a series of tables and figures summarizing technical information about the cleanup, and figures showing the extent of groundwater contamination.
Groundwater contamination at the site results from the cumulative impact of decades of improper chemical handling and disposal practices. Although many of the laws regulating the handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals went into effect after 1970, historical documents demonstrate that local officials were concerned about the potential for groundwater contamination by industrial activity in the San Gabriel Valley as early as the 1950s.
- The cleanup plan requires, on average, pumping of approximately 22,000 gallons per minute of contaminated groundwater and treating it to remove contaminants. The long term cost to pump and treat this water is likely to exceed $350 million, making this groundwater cleanup project one of the largest and most expensive in the United States.
- The water treatment systems make use of a variety of processes to remove the contaminants from the groundwater: ion exchange (to remove perchlorate and nitrate); ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide (to remove NDMA, 1,4-dioxane, and VOCs); and air stripping and/or granular activated carbon (to remove VOCs).
An initial pilot-scale test of a biological treatment system for perchlorate removal was completed between November 1997 and May 1998. The testing demonstrated that the treatment system, which converts the perchlorate to chloride, a non-toxic form of chlorine, could reduce the concentration of perchlorate in the groundwater to non-detectable levels. The PRPs completed a second phase of testing in 2000 to determine whether the treatment system could reliably produce water of drinking water quality. Although the results of the phase 2 testing were positive, a decision was made to use an ion exchange system, rather than the biological treatment system, for perchlorate removal.
- A variety of proposals were made in the 1990s for use of the water pumped to the surface and treated as part of the cleanup. Earlier plans to export the treated groundwater out of the San Gabriel Valley were replaced by plans to use much of the water locally to replace supplies lost when contamination forced the closure of water supply wells.
- The Baldwin Park cleanup plan combines cleanup and regional water supply goals. The negotiations needed to work out arrangements for a joint cleanup and water supply project were ultimately successful, but did not occur quickly or cheaply. The negotiations were complex and contentious for a number of reasons, including the high cost of cleanup, the number of parties involved in the negotiations, divergent interests among the water agencies, divergent interests among the PRPs, the desire for a comprehensive agreement, and an initial lack of trust among the negotiating parties.
The Potentially Responsible Parties are ultimately responsible for funding the design, construction, and operation of the groundwater cleanup facilities, but they have benefitted from more than $38 million in Federal grants (as of April 2011). The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority are administering the Federal funds.
In November 2007, the cleanup was featured in a segment of the History Channel show "Modern Marvels."
The Baldwin Park project has been a multi-agency Federal, State, and local effort:
- US EPA completed the remedial investigation and feasibility study, developed and adopted the cleanup plan, identified the PRPs, ordered the PRPs to implement the remedy, and have overseen design, construction, and operation of the groundwater extraction and treatment facilities.
The California Regional Water Quality Control Board (Los Angeles) assisted EPA in identifying PRPs and has taken the lead in directing PRPs to clean up soil contamination.
The California Department of Public Health , approved the design and oversees the operation of the four Baldwin Park water treatment systems. Water from the treatment systems water is used as a source of drinking water.
The Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) include 21 companies identified by EPA as significant contributors to the groundwater contamination. Eight of the PRPs identified by EPA signed the Baldwin Park project agreement and have helped pay the costs of designing, constructing, and operating the cleanup facilities. EPA has negotiated "cash-out" settlements with the majority of the remaining PRPs to resolve their liability for the contamination.
The Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster is a court-appointed entity responsible for administering the water rights agreement in the San Gabriel Basin. The Watermaster is responsible for a variety of coordination, budgeting, monitoring, and reporting tasks required by the BPOU project agreement. Local water utilities own and operate the cleanup facilities
The San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority (WQA) was created by the State of California in 1993 to help coordinate the plans and activities of EPA and other Federal and State agencies responsible for cleanup of the San Gabriel Basin. The WQA signed the Baldwin Park project agreement and administers Federal funds earmarked for cleanup in the San Gabriel Valley.
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.
POTENTIALLY RESPONSIBLE PARTIES
SAN GABRIEL VALLEY AREA 2 SUPERFUND SITE, BALDWIN PARK OPERABLE UNIT
I. LARGEST CONTRIBUTORS TO THE GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION (in alphabetical order)
|Aerojet General Corporation (and Gencorp Inc.)||1100 W. Hollyvale Street in Azusa, CA||funding cleanup and EPA oversight costs|
|Huffy Corporation||1120 W. Foothill Blvd. in Azusa, CA||bankrupt|
|Oil & Solvent Process Co.||1704 W. First Street in Azusa, CA||funding cleanup and EPA oversight costs|
|Winco (formerly Wynn Oil Company)||1151 W. 5th Street in Azusa, CA||funding cleanup and EPA oversight costs|
II. LESSER CONTRIBUTORS TO THE GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION (in alphabetical order)
|Azusa Gas Systems||1201 W. Gladstone Street in Azusa, CA||funding cleanup and EPA oversight costs|
|Azusa Pipe and Tube Bending||766 N. Todd Ave in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|Allegiance Healthcare Corporation (formerly known as Baxter Healthcare)||4401 Foxdale Avenue in Irwindale, CA||cashout settlement|
|Fairchild Holding Corporation||601 S. Vincent Avenue in Azusa, CA||bankrupt|
|The Hartwell Corporation||701 W. Foothill Boulevard in Azusa, CA||funding cleanup and EPA oversight costs|
|J. H. Mitchell and Sons Distributors, Inc.||14515 Joanbridge Street in Baldwin Park, CA||cashout settlement|
|Leach International||717 North Coney Avenue in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|Lockheed-Martin Corporation||1004 W. 10th Street in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|Mobil Oil Corporation||1004 W. 10th Street in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|Phaostron Instruments & Electronic Company||717 North Coney Avenue in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|Philip Morris USA Inc.||717 North Coney Avenue in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|Reichhold Inc. (formerly known as Reichhold Chemicals)||237 Motor Ave in Azusa, CA||funding cleanup and EPA oversight costs|
|Rubber/ Urethanes Inc.||968 W. Foothill Blvd. in Azusa, CA||bankrupt|
|Screwmatic Inc.||925 W. First Street in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|U.S. Department of Defense||1100 W. Hollyvale Street in Azusa, CA||past and future cost settlement|
|Valspar Corporation||1004 W. 10th Street in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
|White and White Properties||145 S. Irwindale Ave and 204 S. Motor Avenue in Azusa, CA||cashout settlement|
Documents and Reports
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
West Covina Library
1601 West Covina Parkway
West Covina, CA 91790
8800 Valley Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770
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
8800 Cal Center Drive
Sacramento, CA 95826
After Hours (Emergency Response)