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ENVIRONMENT : EPA Tells Firms to Pay for Cleanup Study


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has notified 17 San Gabriel Valley companies that they will have to contribute a total of about $1.1 million to investigate ground water contamination in the El Monte area.

Eventually, the companies will also be called on to pay for cleaning up the pollution.

The study, which will begin in several months, is part of the EPA's overall effort to direct the cleanup of heavily polluted ground water beneath the San Gabriel Valley. The entire ground water basin, polluted with industrial solvents, is a federal Superfund site slated for priority cleanup.

The EPA has organized the cleanup into seven areas. In each area, the federal agency has taken action or plans to move to identify private parties responsible for the pollution. Those parties, in theory, are responsible for the cost of cleaning up the pollution.

The 17 firms that the EPA notified last week include both large and small businesses, which produce a variety of products--from glass bottles to paint--in El Monte, Temple City and Rosemead.

The EPA will soon begin negotiations to determine how much of the $1.1 million each company will pay, a spokesman said.

The president of one company said he fears that he will be hit with a large tab that he cannot afford, and that he will be paying to clean up contamination left by others.

"This is industrial contamination that has been created over a 50-year period by people who are no longer here," said William Peters, president of Trail Chemical, an El Monte paint manufacturer.

Once the investigation is completed in about a year, the EPA will ask the companies to pay for the actual cleanup, a spokesman said.

The investigation in the El Monte area involves sampling water from 11 wells, including six to be drilled, said the EPA's Nathan Lau, who oversees remedial action in the area.

Preliminary testing has detected high levels of contamination, as much as 3,000 times state and federal limits, in the top 20 feet of the ground water basin. The top of the basin is 70 to 100 feet below the surface. During the investigation, samples will be drawn from as deep as 400 feet below ground, officials said.

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