Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
San Fernando Valley (area 1 North Hollywood And Burbank)
EPA #: CAD980894893
County: Los Angeles
City: North Hollywood and Burbank
Congressional District: 26
Other Names: (1) North Hollywood NPL Site, (2) North Hollywood Operable Unit (NHOU), and (3) Burbank Operable Unit (BOU)
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Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Final
Proposed Date: 10/15/84
Final Date: 06/10/86
San Fernando Valley (Area 1) is an area of contaminated groundwater covering approximately 4 square miles beneath the North Hollywood section of the City of Los Angeles and the City of Burbank. This area is part of the San Fernando Valley Groundwater basin, an aquifer which provides drinking water to over 800,000 residents of the Cities of Los Angeles, Burbank, and Glendale, and the La Crescenta Water District. Approximately 3 million people reside within three miles of this site.
In 1980, concentrations of chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOC), including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), were found to be above Federal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and State Action Levels in many city production wells. Those solvents were widely used in a number of industries including aerospace and defense manufacturing, machinery degreasing, dry cleaning, and metal plating. Some contaminants currently affecting the basin's water supply can be traced as far back as the 1940s, when chemical wastes disposal was unregulated throughout the Valley. In response to the public health threat, the cities were forced either to shut down their wells and provide alternate sources of drinking water or blend contaminated well water with water from clean sources.
Results of a groundwater monitoring program conducted from 1981 to 1987 revealed over 50 percent of the water supply wells in the eastern portion of the San Fernando Valley Groundwater Basin were contaminated. More than 60 public drinking water supply wells are located within the Area 1 site perimeter; 56 are owned and operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and 11 are owned and operated by the Burbank Public Service Department. The shutdown of many of these wells has resulted in the cities turning to more expensive sources of drinking water, and has limited used of a substantial drinking water supply in an area where this resource is already scarce.
Contaminants and Risks
The groundwater is contaminated with various chlorinated VOCs, specifically trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). The groundwater is also contaminated with hexavalent chromium. Exposure to VOC and chromium contamination can occur through drinking, bathing, or cooking with contaminated groundwater. However, since the contamination was discovered, residents have been provided with alternate drinking water supplies, including imported water or treated groundwater mixed with imported water.
Who is Involved
This site is being addressed through Federal, State, municipal, and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.
Investigation and Cleanup Activities
This site is being addressed by focusing on cleanup of groundwater in the North Hollywood Area, the Burbank Area, and the San Fernando Basin as a whole (area-wide).
North Hollywood Area: Based on the results of the study conducted by the State of California, EPA chose the first interim cleanup remedy consisting of groundwater pump and treat using aeration and granular activated carbon (GAC) air filtering units, with discharge of the treated water to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's (LADWP) pumping station for chlorination and distribution in the public water supply.
Construction of the 2,000 gallons per minute (gpm) treatment plant started in 1987. The system began operating December 1989 and has operated since then. Water is pumped to an aeration tower where the contaminants are removed from the water by an air stripper. These contaminants are then captured by a vapor phase GAC system to limit air emissions of the compounds. The spent carbon is removed and is either disposed of or regenerated. The treated water is transferred to a holding reservoir before entering the city's distribution system. Approximately 50 percent of LADWP's production wells are still being pumped, with the other 50 percent of the wells shut down in the 1980's due to contamination. On average, groundwater in the vicinity of the NHOU accounts for approximately 11 percent of the City of Los Angeles' drinking water supply, with the North Hollywood groundwater treatment system providing approximately 1-2 percent of this amount.
The VOCs are effectively removed by the existing North Hollywood Operable Unit (NHOU) groundwater treatment system to below MCLs, and often to non-detectable levels. However, changing groundwater conditions in the aquifer and the discovery of VOC contamination in new areas of the aquifer beneath North Hollywood limit the ability of the existing remedy to fully contain the VOC plume in the NHOU. In addition, EPA has more recently detected emerging contaminants, including hexavalent chromium and 1,4-dioxane, in excess of the state MCL for total chromium and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) notification level (NL) for 1,4-dioxane at two of the NHOU extraction wells. The existing NHOU treatment system is incapable of removing these contaminants, and a sharp increase in the chromium concentrations in the two wells has caused them to be shut down, removed from the system, and the water redirected. These wells serve an important plume containment function for the high levels of contamination. These shut downs demonstrated the need for a change in the remedy.
In response to the above shut downs, as well as continued migration of VOC-contaminated groundwater, EPA conducted a Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) to evaluate alternatives for changing the groundwater remedy. The FFS developed and evaluated a range of alternatives for addressing the contaminants in groundwater. The results of the FFS, including the comparative analysis of alternatives and identification of a preferred alternative, are summarized in the July 2009 Proposed Plan, and the preferred remedy is selected in the September 30, 2010 ROD. The selected remedy is to install well-head treatment for hexavalent chromium and 1,4 dioxane, expand the combined treatment system, install additional monitoring wells, and to install and operate 3 additional groundwater extraction wells, and to continue to provide the treated water to the LADWP.
EPA is currently proposing to amend that remedy by also allowing the treated water to be reinjected back into the groundwater from which it was extracted. See the 5/13/13 Proposed Plan Fact Sheet, below, for more details. See also the Bulletin Board above for details on the public meeting.
Burbank Area: In 1989, EPA finalized the Record of Decision (ROD) selecting the interim cleanup remedy for the Burbank area of the site: extraction of groundwater from new extraction wells in the most highly contaminated zones. The contaminated water is treated through an air stripping process and liquid phase granular activated carbon (GAC) to remove the organic solvents. Carbon adsorption is used to treat air emissions from the air stripping process. The treated water is blended to lower nitrate levels and the water is delivered to the City of Burbank's Public Service Department for distribution to the public water supply system.
Phase I of the remedy, which extracts and treats 6,000 gpm of groundwater, began operations in January 1996. Phase II which provides an additional 3,000 gpm extraction capacity to the facility, began operations in early 1998. The Burbank treatment system continues to extract and treat contaminated groundwater, although typically at flow rates less than 9,000 gpm.
Area-wide Groundwater: EPA completed a basinwide Remedial Investigation (RI) in 1992, including installation of a basinwide groundwater monitoring well network which is sampled regularly to provide data on the groundwater quality and track progress of the groundwater cleanups in the San Fernando Valley groundwater basin.
The potentially responsible parties will continue to conduct site cleanup under EPA oversight. The EPA and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board entered into a Cooperative Agreement for the Basin-wide investigation of potential responsible parties for the San Fernando Valley Basin.
Cleanup Results to Date
The use of an alternate water supply and the operation of the groundwater treatment system in the North Hollywood and Burbank Areas have reduced the potential of exposure to contaminated drinking water at the San Fernando Valley (Area 1) site and will continue to protect residents near this site while additional cleanup activities are planned and implemented.
As of 2008, the existing North Hollywood groundwater pump and treat system has extracted and treated approximately 8 billion gallons of VOC-contaminated groundwater to levels that are below state and federal maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for drinking water.
Similarly, as of 2008, the Burbank groundwater pump and treat system has extracted and treated approximately 36 billion gallons of VOC- contaminated groundwater to levels that are below state and federal MCLs for drinking water.
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.
No-Further-Action ("NFA") Letter recipients
Under a cooperative agreement between EPA and the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region ("LA-RWQCB")
Additionally, EPA and the LA-RWQCB sent joint NFA letters to parties in cases where both EPA and the LA-RWQCB determined that additional investigation was not required.
Based on information provided to EPA by the RWQCB or otherwise known to EPA and the RWQCB when the joint NFA letters were issued, the entities who received the joint NFA letters will not be asked by EPA or the RWQCB to participate in regional ground-water cleanup projects currently planned for the San Fernando Basin Superfund Sites. However, EPA may re-open a site investigation or request participation in regional ground-water cleanup projects, if new information becomes available or site conditions change. Click here for the list of LA-RWQCB No Further Action letter recipients and joint EPA/LA-RWQCB No Further Action letter recipients. Parties who received a joint NFA letter are noted with a "Y" in the “Joint Letter” column on the NFA Letter list.
General Notice Letter ("GNL") and Special Notice Letter ("SNL") Recipients
A GNL notifies an entity that EPA has identified the entity as a potentially responsible party ("PRP") for the purpose of Superfund response actions. Besides designating a facility or person as a PRP, the GNL is used to encourage PRP coalescence and formation of steering committees, an important step prior to negotiations with EPA for Superfund response work, both investigatory and remedial.
An SNL, in addition to designating an entity as a potentially responsible party ("PRP"), initiates a formal settlement process between EPA and the PRPs. The SNL is used to facilitate an agreement between EPA and the PRPs for the PRPs to conduct site work and to pay EPA's oversight and other response costs. The SNL requests an offer from PRPs to perform these actions and sets a formal time period for negotiations to be completed, after which EPA may unilaterally order the PRPs to undertake the site work and to pay EPA's oversight costs, and initiate a lawsuit to recover EPA's other response costs.
EPA sent general notice and special notice letters to parties EPA considered potential contributors to the volatile organic compound (VOC) groundwater contamination in the Area 1 - North Hollywood, and Area 2 - Glendale/Crystal Springs San Fernando Valley NPL sites. Click here for the list of General Notice and Special Notice letter recipients.
EPA may from time-to-time identify additional potentially responsible parties based on new information, or changes in site conditions.
Documents and Reports
Public Meetings: On June 5, 2013, the EPA conducted a public meeting to take formal verbal comment and present its preferred plan to amend the 2009 Interim North Hollywood Operable Unit Record of Decision. A 30-day public comment period started May 13, 2013 and extended an addition 30-days until July 11, 2013. EPA will review all comments received and will develop a Record of Decision (ROD) and responsive summary that memorialize the decision. Once final, the ROD will be available to the public in the "Documents and Reports" section above and at the information repositories listed below.
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
Burbank Public Library,
110 North Glen Oaks Boulevard,
Burbank, CA 91502
City of Los Angeles Central Library
Science and Technical Department
630 West 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
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)