Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
Cooper Drum Co.
EPA #: CAD055753370
County: Los Angeles
City: South Gate
Congressional District: 33
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Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Final
Proposed Date: 02/07/92
Final Date: 06/14/01
The Cooper Drum Superfund Site is a 3.8-acre facility located at 9316 South Atlantic Avenue in South Gate, California. The Site is in an urban area of mixed industrial, commercial and residential uses. Rayo Avenue borders the Site to the east and the former Tweedy Elementary School property is located directly to the south. From 1941 until 1992, Cooper Drum Co. reconditioned closed-topped, steel drums that previously held a variety of industrial chemicals. The reconditioning process consisted of flushing out and stripping the drums for painting and resale. Heavy duty cleaning called hard washing was performed in the northeast portion of the Site (the former hard wash area, or HWA), when necessary. Beginning in 1976, reconditioning activities took place within the present-day drum processing area (DPA) located in what is now the central portion of the Site. Fluids generated by reconditioning and hard washing activities were collected in open concrete pits and trenches. This led to the contamination of the soil and groundwater beneath the Site. Previous investigations have shown that contamination at the Site can be traced to the HWA and the DPA.
In April 1987, the Los Angeles County Health Department (LACHD) Emergency Response Team responded to an incident at the Tweedy Elementary School property. An unknown quantity of highly caustic liquid waste had migrated via underground seepage from the Cooper Drum Co. property. The waste resulted from the caustic wash water from the drum recycling process line located in the building directly north of the school property. Initially, the waste was thought to comprise mainly sodium hydroxide and oil. When contamination migrated onto school property, the top layer of soil was excavated and the area was paved. Due to public health concerns, Tweedy Elementary School has remained closed and the property is currently used for school district administrative and maintenance functions. Municipal wells located within 4 miles of the site supply drinking water to approximately 335,000 people; the nearest of these wells is located within 1/2 mile of the Site. An estimated 340,000 people live within 4 miles of the Site.
By 1992, when the drum reconditioning business had been sold to Waymire Drum Company, the Cooper Drum Site facilities were retrofitted to provide better environmental protection. An aboveground, enclosed system for containing liquids and wastes was installed including closed-top steel tanks and hard piping to replace the open pits, sumps, and trenches. The former hard-wash area (HWA) was closed and replaced with a new HWA in the Drum Processing Area (DPA), which also provided hard piping and secondary containment. All buildings have concrete floors and the entire facility was paved with asphalt . Since 1992, drum processing operations have not resulted in any release of hazardous substances into the soil or groundwater beneath the Site. Waymire Drum Company continued to operate the facility until 1996. Consolidated Drum Company was the drum-reconditioning operator at the Site from 1996 until their departure in 2003. The facility was fitted to process plastic totes (large square containers) during this period.
Since 2003, drum processing operations no longer occur at the Site and all drum processing equipment has been removed from the Site. Following the removal of the drum processing operations, there were four new tenants at the Site, including a pallet company, a trucking and towing company, and two automotive repair/ salvage companies. As of June 2006, the automotive repair/salvage companies moved operations off-site and the pallet company expanded its operations to the entire property.
The Cooper Drum Site was placed on the Superfund site list on June 14, 2001. EPA completed its Remedial Investigation of the Site in May 2002. The investigation concluded that substantial portions of the soil and groundwater beneath the Site have been contaminated by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mainly chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethene (TCE) and isomers of dichloroethene (DCE) and dichloroethane (DCA). Other contaminants of concern are 1,4-dioxane in the groundwater and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) and lead in the soil. Based on field investigations, it was determined that the groundwater contamination is only present in the shallow groundwater and has not vertically migrated to the deeper aquifers from which municipal wells draw water. EPA also performed a Feasibility Study to evaluate potential alternatives to clean up the contaminated soil and groundwater at the Site.
In September 2002, EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) which selected the remedial actions for the Site. The groundwater remedy consists of using a combination of in situ chemical oxidation (ISCO) to enhance treatment of VOCs and 1,4 dioxane in the source area, and extraction and treatment of the contaminated groundwater. The selected soil remedy for VOCs consists of using dual phase extraction (DPE) due to the presence of a perched aquifer. DPE is a process in which contaminated soil vapors and groundwater are extracted simultaneously for treatment of VOCs. The selected soil remedy for non-VOCs (i.e. PAHs, PCBs and lead) is excavation and off-site disposal. Institutional controls, which would limit access and soil disturbing activities, will be required in areas where excavation is not feasible.
EPA completed the Soil and Groundwater Remedial Design (RD) reports in September 2007. During the RD two in situ treatability studies were completed, which evaluated using an ISCO treatment technology injecting ozone and hydrogen peroxide into the contaminated groundwater, and a reductive dechlorination technology injecting a HRC into the groundwater. The ISCO study showed significant reductions of both VOCs and 1,4 dioxane in the groundwater and is an innovative technology for in situ treatment of these contaminants. HRC was effective on VOCs only. These, treatment technologies were included in the RD to implement the in situ portion of the groundwater operable unit (OU) 1 remedy. Extraction and treatment was also chosen to complete the groundwater remedy. The soil (OU2) remedy included use of DPE in the two source areas (HWA and DPA) of the Site.
The Site has transitioned from a fund lead site to a Potentially Responsible Parties (PRP) enforcement lead site. Special notice letters were sent in May 2008 to 68 PRPs for them to take over the remedial action (RA) and pay past site costs. In February 2009, EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) to 43 PRPs to conduct the RA for soil and ground water. The PRPs have formed a Cooper Drum Coordinating Parties Group (CDCPG) and have complied with the UAO. Forty companies have agreed to collectively pay $22 million to finish cleaning up the Site in a January, 2016 settlement that includes reimbursement to EPA, which used public funds for site cleanup between 2001 and 2009. EPA continues to oversee the cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination at the Cooper Drum Site, which is being performed under a consent decree by the CDCPG responsible parties who contributed to this contamination..
EPA approved work plans for soil and groundwater cleanup. Construction of the Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) treatment system has been completed and the system began operating in February 2011. Construction of the Groundwater Treatment System was completed in September 2011. The Dual Phase Extraction (DPE) Wells began operating in April 2012 after the wastewater discharge permit was obtained form the Los Angeles County Sanitation District. The DPE wells extract contaminated water from the perched aquifer and allow the SVE system to remove and treat the contaminated soil vapor from this perched zone. The extraction and treatment of contaminated groundwater from the aquifer beneath the Site began in August 2012 from an on-site groundwater extraction well. In Spring 2015, the PRPs installed a new extraction well and pipe system to extract contaminated groundwater and then pipe it back to the Site for treatment. The next step is to conduct additional field sampling and evaluation prior to implementing the groundwater remedy further down gradient from the Site.
Contaminants and Risks
- Soil and Sludges
Substantial portions of the soil and groundwater beneath the Site have been contaminated by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mainly chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethene (TCE) and isomers of dichloroethene (DCE) and dichloroethane (DCA). A total 11 VOCs have been identified as a contaminants of concern (COCs). Other contaminants of concern are 1,4-dioxane in the groundwater and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) and lead in the soil.
Who is Involved
This Site is being addressed through Federal and State authorities and is currently being financed by the PRP.
Investigation and Cleanup Activities
This Site is being addressed in two stages: immediate actions and a long-term remedial phase focusing on cleanup of the entire site. The immediate actions were previously performed to remove exposure to contaminants (see following section). The long-remedial actions were summarized above and are also identified in the OU1 and OU2 Remedial Design documents completed in 2007.
Immediate Actions: In April of 1987, contaminated soil at Tweedy Elementary School was excavated, the area was paved, and the school was closed. The City of South Gate closed four municipal wells in the same year. In mid-1987, Cooper conducted an analysis of on-site soil samples and detected VOCs to depths of 30 feet. In 1990, Cooper drilled three monitoring wells to determine the extent of contamination in shallow groundwater beneath the Site.
Entire Site: The EPA completed the remedial investigation into the nature and extent of soil and groundwater contamination at the Site in 2002. This results of this investigation was used in the selection of remedies for the final cleanup of the Site.
The ROD was issued in September 2002, which selected the soil and groundwater remedies for the Site.
The RD reports for soil and groundwater were completed in September 2007. The RD documents provide the descriptions and specifications for construction, operation and maintenance of the remedies.
Cleanup Results to Date
The immediate actions taken to excavate contaminated soils at Tweedy Elementary School and the closure of the school reduced threats to public health. The completion of the RI/FS, ROD, and the Remedial Design ( RD) has identified what is necessary to begin the Remedial Actions for overall cleanup of the contaminants present beneath the Site.
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.
EPA has conducted enforcement investigations to identify PRPs which have reprocessed their drums at the Site. These efforts have identified over 60 PRPs who have received enforcement notice letters. The Site has transitioned from a fund lead site to a PRP enforcement lead site. Special notice letters were sent in May 2008 to 68 PRPs for them to take over the remedial action (RA) and pay past site costs. In February 2009, EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) to 43 PRPs to conduct the RA for soil and ground water. The PRPs have formed a Cooper Drum Coordinating Parties Group (CDCPG) and have complied with the UAO. Forty companies have agreed to collectively pay $22 million to finish cleaning up the Site in a January, 2016 settlement that includes reimbursement for EPA, which used public funds for site cleanup between 2001 and 2009. EPA will oversee the cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination at the Cooper Drum Site, which is being performed by the CDCPG responsible parties who contributed to this contamination. Currently, the CDCPG is implementing the remedial action for cleanup of contaminants identified at the Site.
Documents and Reports
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
Leland R. Weaver Library
4035 Tweedy Blvd.
South Gate, CA
Hours: Tue.-Thurs. 10am-8pm
Lynwood Public Library
11320 Bullis Road
Lynwood, CA 90262
Hours: Tue. - Thurs 10am-8pm
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)