Cleanup Settlement Protects Drinking Water in Calif.
EPA oversees removal of contaminants from soil and groundwater at Superfund site
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached an $11 million settlement for contamination at the Rockets, Fireworks and Flares Superfund site in Rialto, Calif. The site was formerly known as the B.F. Goodrich Superfund site, but EPA changed the name as part of a prior agreement with a major settling party.
The settlement is with the estate of Harry Hescox, the late president of a defunct company known as Pyrotronics, which manufactured fireworks at the site. Under the terms of the agreement, $5.5 million will be put toward the cleanup work. The remaining $5.5 million will go toward reimbursing EPA for work it conducted at the site over the last several years. Comprehensive cleanup of the site is anticipated to total as much as $100 million.
“EPA is pleased to conclude a decade of litigation that secured agreements from several parties contributing cash or work for the soil and groundwater cleanup,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific southwest. “This final settlement will provide additional funds needed to protect a valuable source of drinking water in Southern California.”
Pyrotronics constructed a concrete-lined pond to dissolve explosive wastes containing perchlorate and other chemicals and disposed of wastes onsite. High concentrations of perchlorate have been found in the soil beneath the pond and in groundwater immediately down-gradient.
The Superfund site has been used to store, test and manufacture fireworks, munitions, rocket motors and pyrotechnics, and was added to EPA’s National Priorities List in September 2009. The area’s groundwater is contaminated with trichloroethylene and perchlorate, which have resulted in the closure of public drinking water supply wells in Rialto, Calif.
Design work on the first groundwater cleanup project at the site began last year, pursuant to a settlement with Emhart Industries, announced in December 2012. Construction should begin later this year. Testing needed to develop the final remedy is also underway, in accordance with a settlement with Goodrich Corp., announced in March 2013. Both of these settlements include contributions from the Department of Defense and certain settlement proceeds from other responsible parties.
Perchlorate is an ingredient in many flares and fireworks, and in rocket propellant, and may disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones needed for normal growth and development.
The consent decree for the Hescox settlement has been lodged with the federal district court by the U.S. Department of Justice and is subject to a comment period and final court approval.