Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
Beckman Instruments (Porterville Plant)
EPA #: CAD048645444
Congressional District: 21
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Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Final
Proposed Date: 10/15/84
Final Date: 06/10/86
The Beckman Instruments (Porterville Plant) site covers approximately 500 acres in Porterville, California. The plant itself occupies 12 acres. The company has manufactured printed circuit boards and electronic instrument parts at the facility since 1968. Wastes generated from these operations included solvents, acid solutions, and heavy metals. From 1974 until 1983, these wastes were disposed of in an evaporation pond on site. This pond is the most likely source of groundwater contamination in the area surrounding the Beckman facility. In addition to the pond, three other areas where wastes were dumped include the former enchant tank area, the ammonium persulfate and copper waste discharge area (known as the soil stain area), and the depression area. Liquids from the pond were first detected in 1978 in a leak detection sump underlying the pond. Subsequent groundwater monitoring indicated the presence of elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals. Numerous residences are located near the site. In addition, Porterville College is located just east of the site, and downtown Porterville is located about 2,000 feet north of the site. A municipal water supply well lies about 500 feet northwest of the facility. Approximately 475 people live within a mile of the plant and are affected by the contaminated groundwater.
Contaminants and Risks
- Soil and Sludges
Groundwater contains VOCs such as trichloroethylene (TCE), Freon-113, and 1,1-dichlorethylene (1,1-DCE). Lead contaminated the soil. People who accidentally ingest or come into direct contact with contaminated groundwater or soil may be at risk.
Who is Involved
This site is being addressed by Federal oversight of the responsible party's actions.
Immediate Actions: In 1983, the pond liquids, liners, and surface soils were removed and disposed of in an EPA-approved facility. Beckman installed groundwater monitoring wells and provided alternate water supplies to about 300 residences affected by the contamination. Between 1983 and 1985, the company connected over 150 of the affected residences to the Porterville municipal water supply system. In 1985, Beckman installed a groundwater pump and treat system to stop the westward spread of contaminants in the upper aquifer and to begin cleaning the groundwater. These activities helped to slow, and eventually halt, the migration of the contaminant plume. In 1987, an eastern containment and reclamation well field was installed. Groundwater from this area is pumped to an on-site air stripping tower. The treated groundwater from both systems is used for local irrigation or is diverted to percolation basins east of the facility and near the Tule River. By January 1990, groundwater cleanup standards were achieved in the upper aquifer.
Entire Site: In 1989, the EPA selected a remedy to clean up the soils and lower aquifer areas of the Beckman Instruments site by extracting the contaminated groundwater, treating the groundwater by air stripping to remove the contaminants, releasing the treated groundwater into the aquifer, and excavating the lead-contaminated soil and disposing of it in an EPA-approved facility. In 1990, Beckman, under EPA oversight, began designing the technical specifications for the cleanup. The design of the groundwater remedy was completed in 1992. To date, soil cleanup has been completed and all components for the groundwater cleanup have been constructed and are operating.
The ROD selected remedy in the upper aquitard and lower aquifer was carried out from 1991 to 1999 when cleanup goals were reached in most of the upper aquitard and lower aquifer groundwater. Small, localized areas of the upper aquitard and lower aquifer remained above the cleanup goal for 1,1-dichloroethylene (1,1-DCE) of 6 micrograms/liter. A focused operation of pump and treat system in areas failed to show progress toward achieving the cleanup goal due to the inability to accelerate contaminant removal from the upper aquitard. Since 1999, groundwater concentrations of 1,1-DCE have generally remained stable or decreased. In September 2003, EPA conducted a Five-Year Review of the site remedy. EPA concluded that these small remaining areas cannot be cleaned up with the conventional pump and treat at a reasonable cost.
From August 1-30, 2005, EPA conducted a comment period to allow the public an opportunity to comment on the three alternatives considered to solve this issue: 1) no action, 2) resume pump and treat and 3) monitored natural attenuation (MNA), which was EPA's preferred alternative. EPA conducted a public meeting in Porterville on August 9, 2005. After considering comments received, EPA issued an amendment to the ROD in September 2005. The ROD amendment memorializes EPA's decision to change the remedy from pump and treat to MNA and provides EPA's response to public comments.
Under EPA oversight, Beckman installed four new monitoring wells in August 2006 and has begun monitoring to implement the MNA remedy. In September 2013, EPA conducted the fourth five-year review of the site and determined that the MNA remedy is protective of human health and the environment. Concentrations of 1,1-DCE in the groundwater continue to decline.
In 1987, the EPA and Beckman Instruments signed a Consent Order requiring the company to clean up the site. Beckman designed cleanup technologies and is currently conducting cleanup activities under a Unilateral Administrative Order.
Cleanup Results to Date
All construction at the site is complete. The pump and treat system operating at the Beckman Instruments site has been effective in reducing the levels of contamination in the groundwater. Cleanup standards for the upper aquifer have been achieved. The soils contaminated with lead have been removed from the site, eliminating the potential for direct exposure to hazardous materials at the site. Cleanup of the lower aquifer at the Beckman Instruments (Porterville Plant) is underway and will continue until established drinking water standards are met.
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.
Beckman-Coulter, Inc. is the sole RP for this Site.
Documents and Reports
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
Porterville Public Library
41 West Thurman Avenue
Porterville, CA 93257
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
After Hours (Emergency Response)