$340 Million Settlement Reached for Cleanup of California Superfund Site

The 161 responsible parties and the state of California have agreed to pay $340 million to continue cleanup of the Operating Industries Inc. Superfund site in Monerey Park, Calif.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice reached a $340 million settlement with 161 responsible parties and the state of California for the Operating Industries Inc. Superfund site in Monterey Park, Calif.

The settlement, the eighth since 1986, will provide for the implementation of the final clean up remedy and associated costs at the 190-acre landfill site. To date, settlements between all involved parties have totaled over $600 million.

"Old landfill sites are a problem both in terms of their harm to the environment and the cost of cleaning up and containing them," said Jane Diamond, the EPA acting director for Superfund in the Pacific Southwest.

The landfill operated from 1948 to 1984 and accepted industrial and municipal wastes. More than 12 years of non-stop construction have now nearly contained the contamination.

When completed, the clean up, which began in 1984, will protect human health and the environment from the release and migration of contaminants from the landfill. A leachate treatment system, landfill gas collection system and a landfill cover have been constructed. Additional systems will treat landfill liquids collected from extraction wells on site.

"This exceptional settlement will provide the necessary money and work commitments to assure the full implementation of the EPA remedy for the Operating Industries Site," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden. "This is a tribute to the hard work of all of the parties involved, and the willingness of the companies to accept responsibility and assure the protection of human health and the environment."

In other Superfund news, the Department of Justice EPA reached a settlement of nearly $15 million with the state of California resolving the state's liability at the Casmalia Resources Superfund Site near Santa Maria in Central California.

Under the proposed settlement, the state will also waive claims against most parties for reimbursement of $1.4 million in past cleanup costs incurred by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. The state will also waive all past and future cleanup claims against the United States.

The EPA has identified more than two dozen state entities which sent waste to the site, making them liable for cleanup costs under the Superfund law. The state sent approximately 220 million pounds of waste to Casmalia during its 16 years of operation. The state's largest waste contributors were the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board and Caltrans.

"This settlement is a fair resolution of the state's liability at the site for the cleanup costs," said Cruden. "It allows the EPA and the state to avoid liability disputes and to coordinate as regulatory agencies to ensure efficient cleanup of the site. We commend the State for coming forward and settling this case which will assist in the cleanup."

Diamond said the agreement with the state "provides much-needed funding to continue cleanup activities at one of the state's most complex hazardous waste sites." She said the agency is looking forward to continuing its partnership with the state of California in limiting the impacts this site has on the local ecosystem and surrounding community.

The announcement is part of an ongoing EPA effort to secure funding for the cleanup of the 252-acre landfill, which was designated as a federal Superfund site in September 2001. The Casmalia Resources site, located 10 miles from Santa Maria, Calif. was an active hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility from 1973 to 1989. The site accepted approximately 5.5 billion pounds of waste from about 10,000 contributors, placing it in 92 waste management facilities that included landfills, ponds, shallow wells, and treatment units.

In 1991, the site owner/operator abandoned active efforts to clean up and close the facility, claiming financial difficulties. In 1992, the EPA took action to control the site and address immediate health threats. The site - which is contaminated with a variety of metals, pesticides and other toxic materials - continues to undergo investigation and cleanup work by the Casmalia Steering Committee with oversight by the EPA and the state.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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