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Chromium 6 cleanup slated for ...

Chromium 6 cleanup slated for contaminated lot

By Brittany Levine, Glendale News-Press

Despite efforts to stop it, the chemical Chromium 6 has been seeping into Glendale groundwater for years at the site of a defunct plating company. By early next month, that will start to change.

Ralphs Grocery Co. plans to finalize the purchase of the nearly 1-acre property near the border of Los Angeles and Glendale within the next two weeks. With that done, it will begin cleaning up the contaminated dirt left behind by Excello Plating Co. in order to expand the grocer’s distribution center next door.
“The remediation of the Excello parcel with private funds and its restoration to productive use is a win for the community, as well as for Ralphs Grocery Co.,” company spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and California Department of Toxic Substances Control cited Excello for violations more than five years ago in an attempt to force it to clear the contamination. That never happened. The property, which includes a roughly 13,800-square-foot building, currently is owned by a trust, which says it can’t afford the clean-up.

But even as state and Ralphs officials applaud the planned remediation — expected to cost from $1.3 million to $2.3 million — the cleanup process may interfere with Glendale’s high-tech facility that is testing methods for stripping chromium 6 from groundwater.

Glendale and other cities in the San Fernando Valley long have grappled with chromium 6 contamination, which has been found to cause cancer. Both state and federal governments may lower limits for the contaminant in drinking water in coming years.

Glendale water is blended with clean, but costly, imported water to get chromium 6 levels to around 5 parts per billion, 10 times less than the state limit.

About a decade ago, Glendale began testing new ways to strip chromium 6 at two sites, one of them at Goodwin Avenue and San Fernando Road, next to the plating facility and the Ralphs distribution site.

During demolition, chromium 6-tainted dust could impact the city’s research, said Leighton Fong, a civil engineer at Glendale Water & Power. Scientists want to get chromium 6 levels at the testing sites below 1 part per billion — an effort that is being closely watched by state and federal officials. Because of the extremely low cap, measurements are very sensitive.

“We’re talking about very small amounts,” Fong said, comparing the situation to research on pharmaceuticals found in the Santa Ana River. Researchers there have been told not to drink coffee or use hand sanitizer to avoid muddling test results, he said.

Sam Unger, executive officer of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Ralphs will have to mitigate dust kicked up during demolition and clean-up as part of an agreement approved in November.

Fong said Glendale researchers plan to test pure water alongside the contaminated water to keep demolition effects in check and work quickly to finish the testing before Ralphs starts demolition.

Ralphs still has several steps to take after purchasing the property, such as filing permit applications, before demolition can begin. Ralphs has about four years to finish remediation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been studying ways to remove chromium 6 from groundwater in the San Fernando Valley since 2007 as it prepares to do its own regional clean-up with financial help from the polluters, including Lockheed Martin and PRC DeSoto.

While environmental officials are focused on a water cleanup program, Ralphs is only required to clear its new site of contaminants, not the groundwater below.

The Glendale City Council, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) all have complained that it’s taking too long to set a new lower cap on chromium 6 contamination. Schiff introduced legislation this week that would require federal environmental officials to set a new cap within 12 months of the bill being approved.

(read online version)

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