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Angeles County | Community News File / Burbank

Design Flaws Hinder Water Cleanup Agreement

October 27, 1998

Regulators from the state Department of Health Services have kept a water treatment plant run by Lockheed-Martin Corp. idle for 10 months. The plant is supposed to be cleaning up ground water tainted by years of defense manufacturing byproducts.

The cleanup operation was approved earlier this year by a federal judge and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lockheed and the city of Burbank, with concurrence of the state Department of Health Services.

But state officials who approved the deal were experts in chemicals--not drinking water--according to Gary Yamamoto, regional chief for the department's division of drinking water.

When his agency came to issue permits for a planned plant expansion, they found design and operational flaws, Yamamoto said. That left his agency no choice but to withhold a state operating permit until the problems were fixed, he said.

Every month the facility stays out of service, Burbank must spend $200,000 to $300,000 to import water from the Metropolitan Water District, adding up to millions of dollars the city didn't expect to spend this year, according to city officials.

Federal regulatory officials say they too are frustrated. But they concede that they can't do much.

A spokesman for Lockheed-Martin Corp., which has been involved in the water cleanup effort in the San Fernando Valley for more than 10 years, described the state's actions as disheartening.

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