As the cleanup of nearly 1,000 acres of contaminated land at Whittaker-Bermite approaches a finish line eyed for 2020, the cleanup of another contaminated property, Lang Station property – on the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley – also nearing completion, is just as protracted and just as nasty.
About 33 years ago, officials with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control learned of hazardous chemicals contaminating the Santa Clara River at the Lang Station site.
Fast forward to October 2016, the cleanup of air, soil and water is nearing completion with DTSC officials having recently ordered one last sampling to be done on the 64 acre-site at 1250 Lang Station Road, east of State Route 14 off Soledad Canyon Road.Officials do have one lingering environmental concern, however; a concern that some of the nasty chemicals on the property these past three decades might end up in the surface water.
“There’s more work to be done on the surface water – concerns about the possible movement of contaminants into the surface water,” DTSC spokesman Jose Diaz said Wednesday.
Diaz has also overseen the cleanup of Whittaker-Bermite site over the past two decades.
Both sites are on the south banks of the Santa Clara River and both were home to military involvement – manufacturing and testing at Whittaker, storage at Lang Station.
Now cleanup of the Lang Station site, just eight miles upstream from Whittaker-Bermite, is also coming to a close on the heels of a checkered environmental past.
Early land use
The Lubrication Company of America had been recycling used oil at Lang Station at an oil processing and recycling plant since 1969. For eight years, it recycled bunker fuels, used engine oil, jet fuels, and hydraulic oil.
It also handled wastes containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), sulfuric acid, sulfur monochloride, and heavy metals, storing mixed oily wastes containing PCBs, acids, caustics, solvents and other potentially hazardous substances.
In 1983, officials with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control discovered the company’s “poor work practices resulted in releases of hazardous substances.”
In its online folio about the site, DTSC noted: “During the rainy season, the contaminated surface water runoff could potentially impact the Santa Clarita River.
Consequently, they found numerous violations at the facility between June 1983 and 1986. On March 16, 1987, officials told the company to clean up the site issuing an order called, a Remedial Action Order.
The cleanup stalled. Eight months after having issued the order, Department officials issued a “determination” that the company had no complied with the cleanup order.
The company went bankrupt in 1988, but contamination on the site remained.
Department officials got rid of more than 380 drums containing hazardous waste and removed asbestos that had been dumped there.
By June 1990, state officials put a fence around the property, barring SCV residents access to it – in the same fashion as Whittaker-Bermite was closed to the community.
Why? Because they determined “the site posed an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health and environment,” according to the state’s file on Lang Station.
The cleanup intensified with the Toxic Substances Department removing wastes containing PCBs and waste found in deteriorating tanks. More than 52,940 gallons of liquid wastes stored in nine bins were scooped up.
Also, just as the cleanup Whittaker-Bermite these past two decades involved removing contaminated soil, the soil at Lang Station was also being cleaned. About 25 cubic yards of contaminated soil was contained.
The soil was found to be contaminated by heavy fractions of petroleum hydrocarbons, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile aromatic compounds – such as ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene – PCBs, lead, and acids. Officials found that half the site had been contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons.
And, like Whittaker-Bermite, when state officials went looking for those responsible for the chemicals they found 87 “potentially responsible parties” including the Department of Defense, which at one time had their wastes shipped to site.
And, like Whittaker-Bermite, they found both the soil and groundwater impacted by those contaminants, particularly volatile organic compounds, carcinogenic PCBs and metals.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions. Many believe they are carcinogenic.
The plan in 1999 was to remove all above ground storage tanks and associated piping, put a engineered cap over the entire site and, like Whittaker-Bermite – install a soil vapor extraction system and an air sparging system for groundwater remediation – both treatments of contaminated soils and water.
The vapor extraction system began operating in 2007.
Sampling of the soil and water was carried out in March 2015, the results of which showed the air at Lang Station had been cleaned of VOC chemicals.
A year ago, another six-month sampling was launched.
That report is expected to be finalized once concerns about VOC chemicals possibly impacting surface water are addressed.
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