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1996 News Releases



Release Date: 12/16/1996
Contact Information: Lois Grunwald, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1588 Sherry Nikzat, City of East Palo Alto, (415) 853-3122 Mark Johnson, Regional Water Quality Control Board, (510) 286-0305

Jointly released by the City of East Palo Alto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA)

     (San Francisco) -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) soil and groundwater tests at the Ravenswood Industrial Area brownfield site in East Palo Alto show that contamination there is far less than originally expected.

     "This is welcome and encouraging news that will create exciting new opportunities for growth and economic well being in the community of East Palo Alto, and I am pleased that we have been able to be of assistance to the city," said Felicia Marcus, U.S. EPA's Regional Administrator.

     "We are hopeful that the results of our testing program will spark both the cleanup of contaminated properties within the Ravenswood Industrial Area and the attention of businesses interested in locating to this region," added Marcus. "We believe that environmental cleanup is a building block to economic revitalization, and that restoring contaminated property can go hand in hand with bringing life and strength to a community."

     Past efforts to redevelop the 130-acre Ravenswood Industrial Area have been hampered by the perception that there was widespread contamination at the site that could cost up to $30 million to clean up. Though no official cost estimates have been developed, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board staff believe that actual cleanup costs are more likely in the $2 million to $5 million range, based on the results of U.S. EPA's investigation.

      The investigation, conducted under the U.S. EPA's Brownfields Economic Development Initiative, started in February of this year and was completed earlier this month. It involved the collection of over 240 soil samples from l32 locations and 20 groundwater samples.  

     U.S. EPA tests found several localized areas where soils are contaminated and may require further action. But overall, the tests indicate there is no severe, widespread soil contamination at the site. The tests show that there is a groundwater plume containing volatile organic compounds at the southeastern portion of the site that will require additional investigation and cleanup. The regional water board is working with a local property owner to address the contamination. Cleanup of the plume is not expected to interfere with plans to redevelop the site.

     "It is gratifying to see the cooperative effort between East Palo Alto and federal and state officials start to pay dividends for the City and its people," said Anna Eshoo (D-CA). "The optimistic results of U.S. EPA's soil and groundwater testing at Ravenswood should help to lead to significant economic benefits for the people of East Palo Alto as the area undergoes redevelopment. This is clearly a federal-state-local partnership that works."

     In February 1995, Eshoo held a meeting between local and federal officials to find ways for federal agencies to assist East Palo Alto. The meeting led to the appointment of a federal employee to work on environmental and housing development issues for the city in February of this year.

     The Ravenswood investigation was initiated by U.S. EPA, the City of East Palo Alto, and the regional water board staff to assist the city's efforts to clean up and redevelop the area.  

     "We were really excited when U.S. EPA announced it was sponsoring the investigation of Ravenswood and we are even more excited with the results produced" said Loretta Barsamian, the Regional Board's executive officer. "Though the investigation has identified some areas of soil and groundwater impacts, the fears that the area had wide-spread contamination have been put to rest.

     "We are prepared to work cooperatively with the city, property owners and other responsible parties to address those areas where impacts have been confirmed in order to expedite redevelopment efforts," added Barsamian. "This is a situation where everyone wins, the community and the environment."  

     The brownfields initiative is designed to encourage the redevelopment of former industrial and commercial properties known as brownfields, and to discourage the siting of industrial sites in more rural, pristine areas. The initiative also addresses the concerns of prospective developers and lenders concerned about inheriting cleanup liability for property that is contaminated or perceived to be contaminated.

      "The city considers the Ravenswood Industrial Area to be our most valuable economic development asset in view of the tremendous opportunity the area provides for future jobs and an increased tax base" said Jerry Groomes, East Palo Alto city manager. "Our vision is that the Ravenswood Industrial Area will become a state of the art business and industrial park. We are greatly indebted to the U.S. EPA for the critical assistance they provided to the City of East Palo Alto through this effort."

      Some property owners at Ravenswood have started soil cleanup. The regional water board will oversee any additional investigation and cleanup efforts.

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