State officials monitoring the cleanup of Lang Station — the contaminated site owned by the Lubrication Company of America — have ordered the testing of soil, air and water over the course of this year.
A work order issued Nov. 16 by the Department of Toxic Substances Control calls for the year-long operation and maintenance of “soil vapor extraction,” collecting volatile organic compounds released on the site.
The work order also calls for carrying out the extraction process in accordance with guidelines laid down by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Complicating the operation was the discovery last June that one of four wells installed just one month prior — to monitor deep groundwater — had been damaged by grading near the Metrolink tracks on Soledad Canyon Road.
In a letter explaining the work to be done, state officials pointed out that further tests were necessary based on 2018 findings.
“Based on the recent soil sampling and groundwater sampling results, soil vapor extraction operations may resume to address the residual VOC and TPH vapors persistent at the site.”
Volatile organic chemicals, referred to by state officials, are commonly released through the breakdown of plastics.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions.
Many VOCs, according to the EPA, are dangerous to humans and harmful to the environment.
The safety threshold for VOCs set by the California Department of Public Health is 5 parts per billion. VOC amounts less than 0.5 ppb are not required to be reported.
The “TPH vapors persisting at the site” means the total amount of petroleum hydrocarbons found.
Engineers assessing the cleanup reported results of tests carried out in March 2015 that showed low impacts to groundwater of total petroleum hydrocarbons in two of the monitoring wells on site.
They noted that “TPH was not previously tested for during the 1998 sampling event.”
Experts found one monitoring well contained petrochemicals described as “gasoline range organics” in the groundwater.
They also found detectable levels of other petrochemicals called “diesel range organics” and “motor oil range organics” in the same monitoring well and in a second well.
Cleanup operations last year, in part, involved removing vegetation and repairing cracks in asphalt put down to shield the contamination.
State officials made special note of the damaged monitoring well in their work order.
“Missing off site groundwater monitoring well MW-3 was found, uncovered and inspected and determined to be damaged and unusable,” state officials reported in their work order.
“Well MW-3 needs to be properly abandoned per Los Angele County guidelines.”
This past week, state officials were asked to explain the implications of the uncovered monitoring well.
“Groundwater monitoring well MW-3 is not a water production well,” said Russ Edmondson, spokesman for the Department of Toxic Substance Control.
“The subject well does not have an above-ground pump and wellhead. MW-3 is located offsite within the Metrolink railroad right of way.”
Recent grading done near the monitoring well ended up damaging it, he said.
According to information provided by AECOM — the firm contracted by to carry out the cleanup — MW-3 was buried by grading activities during expansion of Metrolink Maintenance Yard. The subject well was uncovered recently. Upon uncovering the well cover/box, the well was opened, inspected and gauged, and an obstruction was discovered at approximately 28 feet below ground surface.
“A video camera was sent down the well to further investigate the obstruction,” Edmonston said.
“A solid unknown obstruction, which appears to be a hard bottom, was confirmed at approximately 28 feet below ground surface. The well is permanently damaged and will be properly abandoned per Los Angeles County Public Health requirements.”
While the site is being assessed by public health officials, a Moorpark businessman remains interested in purchasing the Lang Station property and even paid for his own private testing of soil, air and water.
“We’re just waiting for DTSC (Department of Toxic Substances Control) to finish work on it,” Louis McCutcheon said in September, adding that he wants to use the Lang Station property for “good commercial or industrial use, once state officials monitoring the cleanup give the green light.”
Early land use
The Lubrication Company of America started recycling used oil at Lang Station at an oil processing and recycling plant in 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, the state agency noted: “During the rainy season, the contaminated surface water runoff could potentially impact the Santa Clara 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, Toxic Substances Control officials issued a determination that the company had not complied with the cleanup order.