The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power--which relies on the wells to supply about 15% of the city's water--is meeting the standard by shutting down the most polluted wells and mixing less polluted ground water with aqueduct water from the Owens Valley. Virtually all of the blended ground water goes to the Central City-Hollywood-East Los Angeles areas, rather than to the Valley, where the pollution occurred.
With worse pollution and less blending capacity, Burbank is not using any of its wells, relying instead on more expensive water from the Metropolitan Water District.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 9, 1988 Valley Edition Metro Part 2 Page 9 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
A Sept. 3 article on cleanup of polluted ground water incorrectly said the Rocketdyne division of Rockwell International has built a ground water treatment system at its Canoga Park plant. The system cannot be installed until it is given final approval by government agencies.
No one knows what TCE or PCE levels may have been served to customers before the contamination was discovered in tests in 1979-80.
But with blending and shutdown of the "hottest" wells, the current threat is mainly one of supply. If the water is left in the ground for health reasons, it will not be available to meet population growth and/or drought emergencies.
The polluted Burbank wells are virtually in the shadow of the giant Lockheed plant. Water taken from monitoring wells beneath the plant has contained TCE and PCE concentrations as high as 7,800 p.p.b. and 43,000 p.p.b., respectively.
Lockheed is under orders from the Regional Water Quality Control Board to begin treating polluted ground water by Sept. 15, and board officials said the company is on schedule. The Lockheed system will extract 1,000 gallons of ground water a minute and remove TCE and PCE down to drinking water levels before discharging the water to storm drains or into the ground. Nonetheless, the EPA is likely to demand a contribution from Lockheed to the rest of the cleanup effort.
The EPA has spent or committed at least $11 million to the cleanup in the North Hollywood-Burbank area. That amount will fund a study of the extent and movement of polluted ground water and construction and operation of a pilot treatment system to cleanse 2,000 gallons of water a minute near the DWP's North Hollywood wells. The treatment system, an aeration tower, is scheduled to be operating by this fall.
But the EPA is considering a proposal for a much larger system in Burbank, which would cost $80 million to $90 million to build and operate over the next 20 years, and treat 16,000 to 22,000 gallons a minute.
The Sept. 13 briefing in Burbank is likely to draw a roomful of attorneys, with companies assessing their legal options. Those eventually named as responsible parties may have considerable incentive to settle rather than engaging in a battle with the EPA. Under the Superfund law, a company refusing to share in cleanup costs may have to pay them plus treble damages if its responsibility can be established in court.
EPA officials said they devised their list of 29 companies by reviewing Regional Water Quality Control Board files and from responses to a formal questionnaire sent to more than 100 Burbank and North Hollywood firms. The questionnaire, which had to be answered under penalty of perjury, sought information on current and former chemical use and disposal practices.
Three firms known to have contaminated ground water were not among the 29 notified by EPA because they are miles from the North Hollywood and Burbank wells. One is Rockwell International's Rocketdyne plant in Canoga Park, which has built a ground water treatment system and is awaiting final state approval for start-up. Another is 3M Riker, formerly known as Riker Laboratories, which is developing a treatment system at its Northridge plant.
Although Cleary of the EPA said the agency hasn't "ruled them out" as responsible parties, she noted the distance between their operations and the wells.
Another company planning its own ground water cleanup is Mepco/Centralab near Griffith Park. Cleary said the firm wasn't notified because it is well downstream of the North Hollywood-Burbank wells. However, she said the company may be notified when the focus shifts to pollution at the other end of the ground water basin.