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Release Date: 6/30/2000
Contact Information: Randy Wittorp, 415-744-1589

     SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today ordered 19 companies to complete a $200 million groundwater cleanup in the San Gabriel Valley -- the largest such order in California's history.  The companies were directed through an administrative order to construct and operate wells and water treatment systems in the Baldwin Park area after negotiations with the responsible parties stalled.
    "EPA can't allow this contamination to spread  any longer," said Keith Takata, regional director of the EPA's Superfund division.  "These orders will clean up the groundwater and make drinking water available to the utilities that have been forced to shut down contaminated wells.  Residents of San Gabriel Valley should not be forced to shoulder this burden any longer."

     The order directs the parties to clean up the contamination by designing, constructing, and operating systems capable of treating 21,000 gallons of water per minute.  The companies have until July 14 to notify the EPA whether they intend to comply.  

     The EPA issues orders only after attempts to negotiate an agreement with responsible parties fail.  Last fall the parties involved in the San Gabriel cleanup presented the EPA with an offer to carry out the cleanup.  But they were unable to complete the next step, which would turn the offer into a legally binding commitment.  With no commitment to finish the cleanup, the EPA has no choice but to issue an order to ensure the cleanup progresses.

     The EPA believes that Aerojet General Company is responsible for the largest share of the cleanup costs, and that 18 other companies -- including Azusa Gas Systems (BFI), Huffy Corp., Waste Management Inc. and Wynn Oil Co. -- bear lesser, but significant shares.

     The San Gabriel Valley was added to the national Superfund list after years of improper handling and disposal of industrial chemicals threatened the region's water supply.  Those chemicals include trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and other chlorinated solvents, as well as perchlorate and NDMA, two rocket-fuel compounds.  Today the basin provides over 50 billion gallons of high quality drinking water each year to Valley residents, yet meeting federal and state water quality standards has become increasingly difficult as the contamination spreads.

      For more information about the EPA Superfund program and EPA activities in the San Gabriel Valley, check