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Bob Hope Airport, Lockheed reach agreement in groundwater cleanup

The authority that runs Bob Hope Airport will pay $2 million for a guarantee that the aerospace firm will pay the $108-million cost to rectify groundwater contamination under part of the Burbank airfield.

March 03, 2011|By Bill Kisliuk, Los Angeles Times

The Bob Hope Airport authority has agreed to pay $2 million to Lockheed Martin Corp. in exchange for a guarantee from the aerospace company to cover the cost of a $108-million cleanup of contaminated groundwater under part of the airport.

Airport officials said the deal was an economical solution to a problem that could have cost much more.

Lockheed spokesman Gary Cambre said the settlement, announced late last week, "is fair and equitable," with the Burbank airport paying its share of costs and Lockheed Martin agreeing to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and with other potentially responsible parties.

In July 2010, the EPA named the airport, Lockheed and others as potentially responsible parties for toxic groundwater resulting from aircraft manufacturing during and after World War II. The EPA estimated the cost of the cleanup at $108 million.

Airport officials denied any responsibility and sued Lockheed to force it to accept liability. They said Lockheed had agreed in 1978 — when it sold the property that is now the airport — to pay eventual cleanup costs.

Lockheed officials countered that they would fulfill their obligations under the 1978 agreement but said their operations did not cause all of the contamination beneath the airfield.

In a statement, Frank Quintero, a Glendale City Council member and president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, characterized the $2-million settlement as a "pure business decision."

"We have always maintained, and still maintain, that the authority has not contributed in any way to groundwater pollution at the airport," he said.

"I think the authority is pleased to have any uncertainty out of the way," airport spokesman Victor Gill said. "It will prove to be the most economically advantageous action to take."

The dispute addresses what the EPA calls the North Hollywood Operable Unit, which includes the western portion of the airfield. The EPA has not yet assigned cleanup responsibility for a separate contaminated area, which also includes part of the former Lockheed property that is now part of the airport.

bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

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