Industrial sites in South Gate may be added to 'most toxic' list

SOUTH GATE - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to add two industrial facilities in South Gate to a list of the nation's worst toxic sites.Seam Master Industries and Jervis B. Webb Co., both in South Gate, have tested positive for elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), commonly used as a solvent for cleaning metal parts. TCE was confirmed in both sites' soil and groundwater. The EPA wants to add the two sites to the Superfund National Priorities List. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country. Listing these sites on the list means the EPA can investigate and clean up the sites using federal funding. "These industrial plants are located in the I-710 corridor, an area that is a high priority for EPA," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the pacific southwest. "We are proposing to add the sites to the NPL so we can proceed with investigating and cleaning them, while holding the polluters financially responsible." South Gate is one of several densely populated communities close to the 710 Freeway, where the effects of pollution are disproportionately higher than in other areas of Los Angeles County. Approximately 1 million people, about 70 percent of whom are minority and low-income households, are severely impacted by pollution from industrial activities in the area and goods movement along the nearby freeway, EPA officials said. From 1972 to the present day, the Seam Master Industries site has been occupied by a facility that manufactures hot-melt adhesive tape for laying carpets. Prior to 1972, Pacific Screw Products Corporation manufactured screw products at the property until the business went bankrupt. The Jervis B. Webb Co. conducted metal fabrication, finishing, painting and assembly operations associated with the manufacture of industrial conveyor belt systems from the 1950s to 1996 on a portion of the site. In 1997, Reliable Steel Inc., purchased this portion of the site, and Blake Rivet Company leased another portion until about 1981. The Blake Rivet Company produced aluminum and stainless steel aircraft rivets. TCE contamination in the groundwater at both of these sites is present above the drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL). The MCL is the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. Although the drinking water supply wells immediately down gradient of the two sites are located in a deeper aquifer and are not currently contaminated, because the aquifers are connected there is the potential that drinking water wells may become contaminated in the future, EPA officials said. The EPA also announced that it is adding to the NPL to abandoned mine sites that discharge toxic pollutants to Northern California's waterways. The New Idria Mercury Mine site in San Benito County affects streams leading to the San Joaquin River and San Francisco Bay. Blue Ledge Mine in Siskiyou County discharged into streams in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and ultimately the Applegate Reservoir, a popular recreation area. These sites were proposed to the National Priorities List in March 2011. To date, there have been 1,652 sites listed on the NPL since 1980, 107 of which are in California. Nationally, construction has been completed at two-thirds of the sites. With all Superfund sites, the EPA tries to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination. For newly-listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, the EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting cleanup at the site.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23