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Release Date: 3/4/1999
Contact Information: Paula Bruin, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1587

Decision in Response to Community Concerns

     (San Francisco)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has turned the thermal oxidation unit off in response to community concerns of health risks to residents living near the proposed Superfund Pemaco site, a former chemical mixing plant in Maywood, Calif.

     "This relationship with the community is important to us," said Kathi Moore, U.S. EPA's Superfund section chief.  "We believe the treatment has been effective, but we are turning the unit off because of community concerns and our desire to build our relationship with the community.  At this point we feel we can address the remaining contamination through the Superfund process which involves continued community input."

     The thermal oxidation system was installed during the removal phase of the cleanup at this site and has been extremely effective in reducing the levels of chemicals in the soil and preventing further groundwater contamination.  The treatment system is used through the country by U.S. EPA and other environmental agencies to remove VOCs from soil and groundwater and is not considered a health risk to members of the community.

     Trace amounts of dioxins, which are formed from any common combustion processes, may be emitted from the unit.  Dioxin emissions from the unit were not sampled because levels are believed to be extremely low.  Any dioxin that may be emitted from the unit does not pose a health risk to the community.  However, because of community concerns, U.S. EPA shut the unit down.

     U.S. EPA will begin an investigation of the extent of groundwater contamination at the site and will start to identify and evaluate technologies to treat the groundwater contamination.  U.S. EPA will continue to work with the community and involve them in the cleanup decisions at the site.

     Pemaco began on-site operations around the late 1940s and ceased operations on June 21, 1991.  In December 1993, the facility burned to the ground.   In September 1997, the U.S. EPA conducted an emergency cleanup at Pemaco, removing 29 underground tanks and installing a soil cleanup system and the thermal oxidation unit.  Hazardous substances known to have been used at the facility include chlorinated solvents, aromatic solvents, and flammable liquids.  The site will become a park, one of the several parks, trails, and natural areas planned to be restored as part of the Los Angeles River Greenbelt.