U.S. EPA secures $7 million settlement for cleanup at the Omega Chemical site in Whittier California
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a multi-million dollar settlement for soil cleanup work at the Omega Chemical Corporation Superfund site in Whittier, Calif. The settlement is with 169 parties – 73 parties comprising the Omega Chemical Site PRP Organized Group, commonly known as OPOG, and 96 others paying cash. According to the consent decree entered by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on October 7, 2010, OPOG will perform the $5.6 million soil cleanup, pay all of EPA’s costs associated with overseeing that cleanup, and also reimburse EPA for $1.5 million in past response costs.
Including prior settlements at the site, this brings the total value of commitments from responsible parties to perform cleanup activities to approximately $24 million, plus cash reimbursements to EPA of more than $14 million. “Today’s settlement is an important step forward in the cleanup of the entire Omega Chemical Corporation Superfund site,” said Jane Diamond, the EPA’s Superfund director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Soil cleanup is a critical step needed to protect nearby businesses and communities and prevent further contamination of groundwater in the area.”
Soil and groundwater at the Omega Site are contaminated with high concentrations of tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), other chlorinated hydrocarbons and Freons. PCE and TCE are solvents that have been widely used by industry as cleaning and degreasing agents. Freon is used as a refrigerant and as a pressurizer in spray can products. EPA found that indoor air contamination in the vicinity of the former Omega Chemical Corporation facility stems from vapor intrusion caused by contaminated soil. Contamination levels in several buildings have been documented at levels above the EPA’s health-protective range for long-term exposure to PCE and TCE. Under the terms of a November 2009 agreement, EPA worked with OPOG to undertake interim measures for reducing contaminant levels in indoor air, and the soil cleanup required by this consent decree should provide a permanent solution to the problem.
Between 1976 and 1991, the former Omega Chemical Corporation – located at 12504 and 12512 East Whittier Blvd. – was a recycling, reformulation and treatment facility that handled primarily volatile organic compounds, such as chlorinated solvents, and refrigerants. The California Department of Toxic and Substances Control referred the Omega Site to the EPA in 1995. Approximately 3,000 drums of hazardous waste were removed from the location in 1995 and 1996, and in 1999 the EPA added the Omega Site to the Agency's National Priorities List -- a list that includes major hazardous sites across the nation.
Since the mid-1990s, EPA, OPOG and other parties have undertaken numerous investigations to determine how to clean up soil and groundwater at the site. In September 2005, EPA announced the selection of a cleanup action to contain highly contaminated groundwater in the immediate vicinity of the former Omega facility. That interim groundwater remedy was implemented, while investigations of soil and the extent of groundwater contamination continued. In August 2010, EPA issued a proposed plan for addressing a four-mile plume of groundwater contamination downgradient of the former Omega facility.