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EPA Plans for OII Site Could Postpone Mall

March 27, 1988|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

MONTEREY PARK — The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a strategy for cleaning up the Operating Industries Inc. (OII) landfill that could delay Monterey Park's plans for a retail center on 45 acres north of the Pomona Freeway until the next century.

The EPA also has announced that a plan proposed by Monterey Park and supported by Montebello to extend Greenwood Avenue through the dump to create a new freeway interchange will entail huge costs that the EPA cannot absorb. City officials said that unless the agency changes its position, the extension will not be built.

The EPA disclosed last week that it had found extensive soil and ground-water contamination on the 45-acre portion of the dump where Monterey Park had hoped to develop a retail center. The agency said it wants to use that land as the center for its cleanup activities at the dump.

A U. S. congressman and officials in the two cities voiced disappointment and, in some cases, anger with the direction the EPA is taking.

'Concerned and Angry'

"I am really very concerned and angry," said Monterey Park Mayor Christopher Houseman.

He said the EPA decision to cluster its cleanup activities on the 45 acres north of the Pomona freeway will, in effect, make that area a permanent site for the treatment of hazardous waste. Other cities will insist on sending their toxic waste to Monterey Park for treatment, he said, adding that he doubts the EPA will be able to keep its pledge to use the property only to treat waste from OII.

Montebello City Administrator Joseph Goeden said the plan to extend Greenwood Avenue from Monterey Park to Montebello and build on- and off-ramps at the Pomona Freeway was being counted upon to ease rush-hour congestion. Goeden said the interchange would reduce traffic on Garfield and Wilcox avenues at the freeway and ease a burden on residential streets used by commuters at peak traffic periods.

Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) accused the EPA of ignoring the concerns of cities and residents. "EPA is not going to get away with this arrogant, Nazi-like attitude they have," Martinez vowed. He said the agency's latest decisions are contrary to its promises to work with cities and residents.

But Michele Dermer, EPA project manager, said the agency has consulted the cities and residents.

Studies Cited

She said the conclusions about the Greenwood extension and the proposal to put treatment and cleanup facilities on the 45-acre site grew out of detailed studies.

Dermer said the EPA found wider deposits of rubbish and more toxic contaminants on the property than had been reported by the city and the state Department of Health Services two years ago in their request to keep the 45 acres off the federal Superfund list.

The property was part of the OII landfill before the state built the Pomona Freeway through the area in 1968, severing the northern parcel from the remainder of the dump. The 45 acres are occupied by an auto salvage yard, a trucking company, a wood recycler and a pavement-crushing business. The 135-acre portion of the dump on the south side of the freeway was closed in 1984 amid complaints about odors and the dumping of toxic waste.

The city and state in 1986 proposed a plan that would have sold the northern 45 acres to a developer, generating $7 million for cleanup of the rest of the property. EPA officials rejected the plan and placed both OII parcels on its Superfund list. But the EPA agreed to analyze contamination of the 45 acres separately to determine whether that property could be cleaned up quickly and developed.

The city and state had contended that most of the contamination was confined to 6.5 acres where 110,000 cubic yards of trash were buried. But EPA said it found 400,000 cubic yards of trash buried as deep as 55 feet on 11 acres.

The study found potentially hazardous concentrations of lead and other contaminants in the soil.

Investigators drilled 12 wells and found organic contaminants in five of them. One well had twice as much vinyl chloride as is permitted under state drinking water standards.

The study also found evidence of leachate, a liquid that often forms as water moves through waste. The EPA said more investigation will be needed to find out if the leachate, or contaminated water, is limited to shallow depths or is moving toward major ground-water basins. The agency said it found high levels of methane gas on portions of the site, but more study is necessary to determine the extent of the problem.

In a letter to Rep. Martinez, David Howekamp, division director of the EPA regional office in San Francisco, said cleanup will probably require the extraction of landfill gas, leachate and contaminated water.

And, he said, the EPA plans to put gas collection and leachate treatment plants and a cleanup staging area on 30 of the 45 acres. Leachate and landfill gas would be piped from the dump south of the freeway to the treatment plants.

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