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8 Told to Pay Cleanup Bill at Toxic Site : Environment: EPA determines that companies dumped dangerous chemicals at Santa Fe Springs facility. Costs at landfill total more than $10 million.

July 14, 1994|JOHN D. WAGNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Environmental Protection Agency says eight companies are largely responsible for dumping dangerous chemicals at a 43-acre site in Santa Fe Springs, and has demanded that they help pay cleanup costs estimated at more than $10 million.

The companies are Mobil Oil Corp., Chevron USA Inc., Dresser Industries, Unical International, Santa Fe Energy Resources, FMC Corp. and two Santa Fe Springs firms, Dia-log Co. and Powerine Oil Co.

The companies either owned the site at one time or dumped toxic substances there, EPA officials said. The site has been contaminated with such chemicals as arsenic, benzene, benzopyrene and polychlorinated biphenyls--all suspected of causing cancer or brain damage.

Spokesmen for five of the firms have denied responsibility or said their involvement was minimal. Officials for Mobil, Unical and FMC were unavailable for comment.

The companies failed to meet a recent deadline set by the EPA for submitting a cleanup plan.

"As of now there has been no agreement to do anything," said attorney Ed Renwick, representing Dia-log. The company, which services parts for oil wells and pipes, owned the site from 1942-47, said spokesman John Kelton.

Agency officials estimate the cost of cleaning up the landfill and monitoring the site for the next 30 years will total $5.2 million. The EPA also wants the companies to pay another $5 million to cover costs that the agency already has incurred.

The site at Santa Fe Springs and Los Nietos Roads is surrounded by businesses, vacant warehouses and parking lots. St. Paul High School is just north of the dump.

The dump began operations in the mid-1920s and was used to store sludge and other wastes generated by oil drilling. It also served as a receptacle for industrial wastes until it was closed in 1964.

Waste Disposal Inc. owned the site from the late 1940s until it was closed, but the company no longer exists and its owners are dead, officials said.

The EPA has announced plans to seal most of the weed-covered site with plastic sheeting covered by asphalt. The area would be vented to release gases, and monitored for 30 years.

Some parts of the site may be covered, however, with soil and vegetation, said Rusty Harris-Bishop, EPA project manager. During public hearings last year on various cleanup proposals, some citizens complained that it would not be attractive to cap the entire site with asphalt. He said the agency hopes to begin work on cleaning up the site in early 1996 and that the project would take about a year.

The dump has been designated a Superfund site, making it eligible for federal cleanup funds. But the EPA seeks to require parties allegedly responsible for contamination to pay cleanup costs.

EPA officials said they have not decided what action to take against the eight companies who missed the deadline for filing cleanup plans.

But spokesmen for many of the businesses questioned whether they should be on the EPA list.

Dia-log, one of the local companies, may have dumped trash, concrete or drilling fluids at the site, but the quantities were minimal, spokesman Kelton insisted.

Chevron records indicate that the company never used the site, spokesman John Wolff said.

Raymond Reott, attorney for Powerine, said the company did not dump toxic substances.

"As far as we can tell Powerine didn't dump any chemicals," he said. "It never owned the site and never dumped any of the substances there that are responsible for the problem.

"Powerine may have dumped some office trash there, but I don't think that's a basis for liability," Reott added.

EPA's Harris-Bishop said, however, that two Waste Disposal documents indicated six of the companies--Mobil, Unical, Dresser, Chevron, FMC and Powerine--had been dumping wastes at the site before 1953. The companies were listed in two Waste Disposal applications seeking permission from the county to allow dumping 24 hours a day and to dump sludges from acetylene manufacturing at the site.

Waste Disposal "should know better than anyone who they were dealing with," Harris-Bishop said.

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