72 year-old Superfund Site to receive $55 million for groundwater and soil remediation

The latest effort to clean up the Del Amo Superfund Site has been finalized, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coming to a $55 million settlement with Shell Oil Company and the U.S. General Services Administration. The proposed cleanup work will seek to reduce groundwater contamination from industrial chemicals processed and produced at the site between 1943 and 1972.

During its nearly 30 years of operation, the 280-acre Los Angeles, Calif. facility was primarily used to produce synthetic rubber. Byproducts of that process — including benzene, propane, butylene and butane — were disposed of in unlined pits and ponds and covered with soil.

In 1984, the soil and groundwater in these areas were found to be heavily contaminated. The recent settlement marks the latest initiative to reverse the pollution at Del Amo since it was placed on the EPA's National Priorities List in 2002.

Part of this round of cleanup will use groundwater remediation technology that injects non-hazardous chemicals into the ground to catalyze the breakdown of pollutants lying deep within the soil. In addition, a vacuum system will extract and filter harmful vapors trapped within the soil. These treatment techniques are estimated to take 3 to 5 years to complete.

To prevent exposure to contaminants in soil closer to the surface, certain sections of the Superfund Site will be capped with asphalt or concrete, augmenting a cap system that includes a previously constructed multi-layer impermeable cap. In addition, several area buildings will need to update their environmental integrity, such as ventilation and floor sealants, to maintain their regulatory compliance.

When it was built in 1943, the Del Amo facility was made up of a styrene plant operated by Dow Chemical Co., a butadiene plant operated by Shell Oil Co., and a synthetic rubber plant operated by several firms, including U.S. Rubber Co. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

In 1955, the U.S. Government sold all three plants to Shell Oil Company, which operated the plants until 1971.

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