Whittier area drinking water, drawn from the interconnected Lakewood and deeper San Pedro formations aquifer, has been contaminated by the Omega Chemical Corporation, a spent solvent and refrigerant recycling company that operated on a 40,000 square foot East Whittier Boulevard parcel from 1976 - 1991. 35 wells supplying drinking water to 284,270 residents, plus commuters and visitors, are located within four miles of the Environmental Protection Agency-designated Omega Chemical Superfund Site, which the EPA later placed on its National Priorities List in January of 1999..
Omega CC's owner plead guilty to two felony counts of illegal storage and disposal of hazardous wastes in March of 1995. OCC contaminated subsurface soil and groundwater with high concentrations of tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), other chlorinated hydrocarbons, and freon - volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - and metals.
Between 1987 and 1995, an underground storage tank was removed, as were 3,000 drums of hazardous waste, 60 cubic yards of hardened resin, 40,000 gallons of resinate and decontaminated water, and a large quantity of contaminated soil, along with hundreds of empty contaminated drums, cylinders and other containers. Sumps, evaporators, a cooling tower, and other structures and equipment were emptied and cleaned. Nevertheless, soil and groundwater testing conducted in 1996 yielded grim results.
The federal drinking water limit for PCE contamination, for example, is 5 micrograms per liter. Despite all the Omega CC and EPA efforts to remove pollutants, the Omega site area PCE contamination level is still measured at up to 86,000 micrograms per liter. All of these contaminants are being measured at unsafe levels. The EPA states that it is overseeing containment and monitoring of this continuing drinking water source pollution by VOC groundwater contamination plumes.
Drinking Water Pollution Update
Yes, sh*t runs downhill, but not all of it... The City of Santa Fe Springs has complained to the EPA that the plan to cleanup the estimated 4.2 mile long contaminated water plume running under Whittier through Santa Fe Springs and on to Norwalk is based on out-of-date data, that no safeguarding of drinking water wells is even being contemplated, and that no high quality drinking water standard is being advanced. So much for the EPA's 30 year $69.2 mil cleanup plan, and so much for being able to trust that Whittier drinking water is safe let alone of high quality.
http://www.whittierdailynews.com/ci_16558499 'Santa Fe Srpings officials criticize EPA plan to contain contaminated water plume' by Mike Sprague, 12/08/2010
And Bring Your Own Air, Too
In addition to soil and groundwater contamination, indoor as well as outdoor air contamination has been discovered in this area, including inside the Terra Pave and Bishop buildings. These pollutants are migrating not only downward into soil and groundwater, but also upward into the air we breathe, some of it concentrating as indoor air pollution. The EPA is also trying to deal with this vapor intrusion problem.
Soil vapor extraction systems being installed may prevent some of the vapors from escaping from soil and concentrating inside buildings, numerous of which are now equipped or being equipped with indoor air purifiers. The EPA is monitoring this problem and the experimental fixes being tried.
See http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_13807965 for the optimistically entitled 'Whittier Superfund site to be cleaned up, EPA says' report
Since the first oil wells were drilled here, the Whittier community environment has been going downhill. Now, this environmental degradation has become dangerous for residents, not just for short periods due to some accident or other, like the explosion that rocked a Whittier College-adjacent neighborhood next to the old Whittier oil fields being reopened, but every day and night. We can no longer take the water we drink or the air we breathe in Whittier for granted.
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