EPA Removes a Section of the Pacific Coast Pipeline from Superfund National Priorities List
Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deleted a 55-acre portion of the Pacific Coast Pipeline from the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The EPA specifically removed the surface soil portion of the site; the groundwater portion, however, will remain on the National Priorities List to ensure that drinking water and agricultural wells are protected from harmful chemicals such as benzene and toluene.
The Pacific Coast Pipeline site sits east of Fillmore, California and operated as an oil refinery until 1950 and then as a crude oil pumping station until its closure in 2002. Waste produced by the operation of the site resulted in both surface soil and groundwater contamination. Efforts to clean up the site have been ongoing since 1986, when EPA oversaw the removal of 38,000 tons of waste and contaminated soil. Despite these efforts, both the surface soil and the groundwater were contaminated with lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and other volatile organic compounds. In 1992, EPA issued a Record of Decision to address groundwater contamination in the area, and began to remove and treat chemicals such as benzene and toluene with a soil vapor extraction system. This system operated for 9 years before it was deemed to be no longer effective in 2002.
In recent years, EPA oversaw Chevron’s cleanup of the site which involved excavating 42,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil onsite and storing it with a multi-layer sealed cap. This portion of the cleanup was completed in 2014 and the site was proposed for deletion from the National Priorities List in December of 2017. Following a 30-day comment period, EPA found that it was appropriate to remove the site from the National Priorities List and approved the area for commercial and recreational uses. While there were a number of comments to the proposal raising concerns regarding future exposure to contaminants, EPA approved the deletion, noting that “the NPL deletion criterion established by the NCP [National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan] has been met; [and that] the responsible party, Texaco, Inc., has implemented all appropriate response actions for surface soil set forth in the 2011 ROD Amendment, which selected the remedy for contaminated soils at the Site.”
While the site has been approved for commercial and recreational use, EPA has included a land use covenant which will prevent the site from being developed for residences or schools. Furthermore, EPA will continue to conduct tests on the site every five years to determine if the cleanup remedy remains protective of human health and the environment.
In addition to the efforts to clean up the surface soil, EPA has conducted additional measures to remove contaminants left by the site from local groundwater reservoirs. A 2015 ROD calls for the groundwater contaminants to be removed through a process called air sparging, in which pressurized air is injected into groundwater reservoirs to remove contaminants. Due to drought conditions, however, EPA has focused on removing benzene and toluene from deep soil through an enhanced soil vapor extraction system. This system has been successful in removing 38 pounds of benzene and 24 pounds of toluene since it began operating in 2015.
The California Environmental Attorneys at Bick Law LLP will continue to monitor the status of Superfund Sites both in California and around the United States.