Water officials will seek federal enforcement action against 20 polluters in the South El Monte-Monterey Park area
San Gabriel Valley water officials on Friday said 20 companies who did not respond to a deadline for groundwater cleanup should be referred immediately to the U.S. Justice Department for federal enforcement action.
COVINA, Calif., Oct. 13, 2003 -- San Gabriel Valley water officials on Friday praised seven companies and individuals who met the October 7 deadline to make good faith offers for groundwater cleanup in the South El Monte-Monterey Park area. But they said 20 others who did not respond should be referred immediately to the U.S. Justice Department for federal enforcement action.
An additional six polluters submitted offers by the deadline that were too low to be considered in good faith, water officials said. They said these parties also should be referred to the Justice Department for federal enforcement unless they immediately revise their offers to be in good faith.
All of the parties, 41 in total, are subject to an August 28 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order to reach a draft cleanup agreement with the local water entities by the deadline or submit their own cleanup plans. Those who do not comply are in violation of the order and face fines of up to $27,500 per day, the EPA order said. EPA enforcement actions are typically carried out by Justice Department prosecutors.
"The polluters who declined to submit good faith offers should immediately face the maximum daily fines, and we will ask the EPA to take this action against them," said Ken Manning, Chairman of the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority board of directors. "The time for foot-dragging is over. We are encouraged by the cooperation we have received from the EPA and expect the agency to enforce its deadline."
Manning said that representatives of the Water Quality Authority would meet soon with EPA officials in San Francisco. He said local water officials hope to continue working closely with federal agency to bring pressure to bear on the polluters under the authority of the Superfund law.
"When the EPA stuck to its guns in 2002, we achieved a landmark $250 million cleanup agreement with the parties responsible for the contamination in the Baldwin Park area," Manning said. "Now we have an obligation to do the same in the South El Monte-Monterey Park area, and we are very hopeful that EPA will work with us as before."
The South El Monte-Monterey Park area is one of several areas in the San Gabriel Valley placed on the federal Superfund cleanup list in 1984 because of industrial contaminants found in the underground water supply.
It took decades of investigation by federal and state authorities to identify the responsible parties. Meanwhile, plumes of contamination continued to move underground, forcing the closure dozens of public water supply wells.
The San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority was created by the state Legislature to coordinate and accelerate the cleanup and preserve the public water supply during the federal Superfund investigation. In the late 1990s, the EPA was criticized by local officials for not getting tough with the polluters, but the pace of the federal cleanup has accelerated in recent years.
In an unprecedented display of cooperation with local water authorities, the EPA issued the August 28 order specifically giving polluters in the South El Monte-Monterey Park area the option of meeting their federal cleanup obligations through a partnership with the local water agencies.
The businesses were ordered to submit letters by September 22 affirming their intent to comply with the EPA order and submit cleanup plans by certain deadlines, or, alternatively, to submit funding agreements with the local water entities by October 7. Local officials said that they have been told by EPA that the parties have missed the initial deadlines for submitting their own cleanup plans.
The water entities gave the businesses the same October 7 deadline to reach a draft financial agreement that would fund the water entities for their costs to build and operate the cleanup projects. By reaching an agreement with the water entities, the businesses could satisfy their Superfund obligations.
Early this year, the Water Quality Authority, the City of Monterey Park, the San Gabriel Valley Water Company and the Southern California Water Company, which have already constructed millions of dollars in cleanup facilities in the area, sued the parties to recover their costs. The water entities said an agreement to comply with the EPA order would include settlement of the lawsuits.
The following responsible parties were praised by the Water Quality Authority for having met the deadline, including La Victoria Foods, which not only met the deadline but has already concluded a settlement with the water entities.
Compressor Parts & Repairs, Inc.
La Victoria Foods
Plastic Dress-Up Company
Plastic Engineered Components, Inc.
The Water Quality Authority said the following parties should be referred to the Justice Department for enforcement action:
JCI Environmental Services
Claudean Mullins Kawie
Mammoet Western, Inc.
M & T Company
New Air Incorporated
One Dollar Cleaner
Quaker Chemical, Inc.
L. E. Tepfer Company, Inc.
Time Realty Investments, Inc.
Tri-Fitting Mfg. Company
Waymire Drum Company
West Coast Metal Finishing
The following parties submitted offers that were not in good faith and will be recommended for enforcement action if they do not immediately revise their offers to be in good faith:
Astro Seal, Inc.
Chevron Research and Technology Company
The following parties have applied, or are expected to apply, for entry to EPA's Ability-to-Pay program because of limited financial resources. Water officials will not seek federal enforcement action against those that reach ability-to-pay settlements with EPA:
Aircraft Stamping, Inc.
Frank J. Alfieri
Eddie L. Allee
Leta N. Allee
Norma M. Clayton
Palmer Battery Company