Clean air, contaminated soil at old Keysor site

The view from the top of the Whittaker-Bermite site shows Entrance Valley that includes many old buildings -- some from the munitions factory, others just movie props. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal 07102014

The latest test results of the air wafting over the site at the former Keysor Century Corporation reveal good news and bad news.

The good news is that the air at the site is clean and of no risk at all.

The bad news is more than half a dozen nasty, cancer-causing chemicals including Tetrachloroethene – a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning – remain in the soil at the site and contribute to detectable amounts of volatile organic compounds trapped in the soil.

The VOCs are treated in specialized containers at the site which act, at their most fundamental level, as filters.

Jose Diaz, California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s project manager assigned to the cleanup of the soil at the former Keysor site on Springbrook Avenue, said the collected VOCs are treated according to the strict protocol laid out by state officials.

The on-site containers include:  three vessels, each four feet wide by eight feet tall, which contain “vapor-phase granular activated carbon” used to treat the VOCs and two vessels containing materials – potassium permanganate impregnated zeolite – which act as sieves.

The bottom line, Diaz said Wednesday, is that the treated air is cleaned and safe to breathe.

“The contamination is in the ground,” he explained to The Signal.

“Once the vapors are extracted, they are put in canisters and clean air is released,” he said.

Every three months, Diaz and the Toxic Substances Department receives a quarterly report from engineers working with the Santa Barbara-based firm Aecom. The reports are called Soil Vapor Extraction Quarterly Monitoring Reports.

On April 17, they notified Diaz of their most recent tests.

The soil vapor extraction tests are carried out according to the protocol set out by South Coast Air Quality Management District, a group mandated to monitor air quality.

The former Keysor Century Corp site is 32 acres in the shadow of Whittaker-Bermite where a company called the Keysor-Century Corporation once made PVC tubing.

The property is west of Whittaker-Bermite and east of Railroad Avenue. If you were to continue driving east on Magic Mountain Parkway, through the T-intersection, across the railroad tracks you would end up on the former Keysor property.

According to DTSC, from 1958 to 2003, Keysor, operated a PVC manufacturing facility on Springbrook Avenue, off of Railroad Avenue, where records were pressed, packaged and shipped.

Prior to the construction of the sewer system in 1963, waste from the PVC manufacturing and record-making was exclusively disposed of into an unlined pond on the east side of its operation.

In January 1974, Keysor was ordered to stop dumping its wastewater into that pond.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Volatile Organic Chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions are believed by many to be carcinogenic.

The VOCs detected in the first three months of this year included detectable levels of:

  • 1,2-Dichloroethane, samples tested ranged from non-detectable to 0.75 micrograms per liter, or μg/L. Dichloroethane is a chlorinated hydrocarbon with a chloroform-like odor.  It is most commonly used in the production of vinyl chloride for making PVC tubing.
  • Chloroform, samples tested ranged from non-detectable to 1.4 μg/L. Chloroform is a colorless, sweet-smelling, dense liquid used in the process of making refrigerants and teflon.
  • Tetrachloroethene, samples tested ranged from non-detectable to 120 μg/L. Tetrachloroethene is a colorless liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics.
  • Toluene, samples tested ranged from non-detectable to 3.2 μg/L. Toluene is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid that smells like paint thinner.  It is widely used as an industrial solvent.
  • Trichloroethene, samples tested ranged from non-detectable to 2.7 μg/L. Trichloroethene is also widely used as a solvent.  It is a clear non-flammable liquid with a sweet smell.


[email protected]


on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS