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Lockheed to Clean Up Possible Toxic Sources

September 24, 1987|BOB POOL | Times Staff Writer

A long-buried World War II scrap heap and a tiny underground chemical tank that may be to blame for Burbank, North Hollywood and Glendale groundwater contamination will be removed, Lockheed officials said.

The 40-year-old, covered-over junk pile may be leaking paint sludge and other pollutants into the underground water table, officials said. And a cleaning solvent that contains suspected carcinogens may be seeping into the ground from a hole in the side of the concrete tank, they said.

The cleanup plan was spelled out Friday for a state regulatory agency and several cities downstream from the Lockheed plant.

Officials at Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co. said the project is the first phase of a long-range "remedial-action plan" aimed at helping decontaminate nearby public drinking water wells containing traces of chemicals.

Lockheed officials had promised last month to remove the concrete tank that is beneath a manufacturing building at Buena Vista Street and Empire Avenue near the Burbank Airport.

No Contamination Known

Glendale officials said there is no proof that toxins from Lockheed have contaminated nine water wells in Glendale near San Fernando Road and Grand View Avenue, about three and a half miles away. However, they said that because the city has been pumping from the field for years, the chemicals may have been pulled downstream into the city.

The Lockheed tank--about four times the size of a bathtub--is one of about 150 chemical holding chambers scattered around the 59-year-old Lockheed plant, company spokesman Jim Ragsdale said.

"It was found to have a baseball-size hole in its side," Ragsdale said. "It has been in use since the early 1950s. Solvents kept in it would include trichloroethylene."

That is a common industrial solvent thought to cause cancer. Test wells drilled in the vicinity of the tank have detected about 320 times the state limit for trichloroethylene in drinking water. The permissible level is four parts per billion.

The scrap heap is a 34-foot-deep dumping ground used during Lockheed's busy wartime manufacturing period in the 1940s. Construction debris, discarded equipment and rubbish from fighter plane assembly lines are buried there, officials said.

Paint Sludge Possible

Company administrators suspect that paint sludge, some heavy metals and petroleum products may also be covered over at the site between two buildings near the company's eastern property line near Victory Place.

Although Lockheed believes that the buried wastes are non-hazardous, the company will excavate 4,200 cubic yards of the dump to make sure, company officials told the state's Regional Water Quality Control Board on Friday.

Hank Yacoub, supervising engineer for the board, said Lockheed will pump contaminated groundwater from beneath the leaking concrete tank and use special filters to remove contaminants.

The company will also use air-scrubber filters to avoid contaminating the air during the cleanup, Yacoub said.

Lockheed's cleanup plan has been praised by Burbank Mayor Michael R. Hastings. Seven of his city's 10 wells have been shut down because of high concentrations of pollutants.

"They could have turned around and stared us in the face and said, 'Sue us,' " Hastings said. "We feel they are working very hard to resolve the problem."

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