More cleanup is needed at Lang Station

The Lang Station historical landmark marker stands beside the railroad tracks on Lang Station Road near Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal
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As the cleanup of contaminated land at Whittaker-Bermite winds down, cleanup of contaminated land at Lang Station appears to be ramping up.

Engineers who specialize in “restoring damaged environments” have recommended to state environmental officials that cleanup of the toxic site at Lang Station be extended for another six to nine months after high levels of contaminants were found there last year.

Lang Station is a 64-acre site at 1250 Lang Station Road, east of State Route 14 off Soledad Canyon Road.

Engineers with the URS Corporation based in Irvine, now part of Aecom Corporation the company contracted to do the cleanup, told officials with the California Department of Toxic Substances that further testing of both soil and water at the site were needed.

They made their recommendation in October in a report that was intended to be the final chapter in the site’s cleanup carried out over the last three decades.

Instead of closing the book on cleanup and test, further testing and “extraction” of contaminants is needed.

URS engineers call for the continued extraction of soil and vapor from the site over the next six to nine months and the removal of residual petroleum hydrocarbons and of concentrations of volatile organic compounds found in three locations on site.

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 Department of Toxic Substances finalized the engineers’ report – called the Final Confirmation Sampling and Rebound Testing Report – in December, Department spokesman Russ Edmunston told The Signal this week.

The recommendations, which state officials are expected to follow, would mean the continued removal of contaminated soil and vapor will last until at least June and possibly September.

On a positive note, engineers reported testing results that show a decrease in the organic chemical concentration in Lang Station’s soil and its soil gas compared to levels recorded in the past.

“Only two VOCs,  trichloroethylene and naphthalene, exceeded their industrial regional screening levels in the soil,” their report concludes.

Cleanup efforts at Lang Station over the past 33 years have reduced concentration of these contaminants considerably and particularly in two areas that historically were its most tainted areas.

Nevertheless, more extraction of contaminants must be carried out if cleanup is to be done thoroughly, according to the URS engineers.

Toxic Substances officials reported this week that cleanup efforts at the 996 contaminated acres at Whittaker-Bermite are on schedule with a completion date of 2018 in sight.

Trichloroethylene is a chemical commonly used as an industrial solvent. It is a clear non-flammable liquid with a sweet smell.

When inhaled, it affects the central nervous system creating a sensation of numbness in some cases. Tests are ongoing to determine whether or not it is carcinogenic.

Naphthalene is a hydrocarbon best known as the main ingredient of mothballs.

About 33 years ago, officials with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control learned of hazardous chemicals contaminating the Santa Clara River at the Lubrication Company of America site, at Lang Station.

The cleanup of air, soil and water is nearing completion with DTSC officials having recently ordered one last sampling to be done on the site.

As noted in one of their work order issued in June 2015, DTSC officials expressed a concern that some of the nasty chemicals on the property these past three decades might end up in the surface water.

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