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Firms Seek Cleanup Agreement : Glendale: Operators of 25 industrial sites say they will comply with an EPA request to oversee design of a ground-water treatment system.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owners and operators of 25 industrial sites told federal authorities Tuesday they are trying to reach a cost-sharing agreement to advance the Superfund cleanup of chemically tainted ground water in Glendale.

In a letter to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the head of a legal committee for the companies said they intend to comply with the EPA’s request that they jointly oversee design of a $47-million to $60-million treatment system to purge ground-water supplies of chemical solvents.

On one front, the letter said, the companies are hiring a panel of mediators to split up the design costs, estimated at roughly $3.5 million to $4 million. On a separate track, the letter said, the firms are negotiating to retain the engineering firm of Camp, Dresser and McKee Inc. to perform the design work.

The letter was in response to the EPA’s Oct. 19 notice to the firms, giving them 45 days to signal their willingness to take responsibility for the system’s design, or face possible legal action.

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Of the 33 Burbank and Glendale firms that the EPA deemed “potentially responsible” for the pollution, 25 got together to explore doing the design as a joint venture.

Randa Bishlawi, assistant regional counsel for the EPA in San Francisco, said the agency’s officials had not had time to study the response.

She also declined to say if steps will be taken against the eight other “potentially responsible parties” who also received letters in October but declined to join the group. At the time, the EPA warned that those refusing to take part could face civil lawsuits or other legal action.

Under the Superfund program, the EPA targets the worst toxic waste sites and seeks to make polluters pay for the cleanup.

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Glendale is one of three sites where the EPA is attacking lake-size plumes of tainted San Fernando Valley ground water that have forced Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale to reduce their traditional reliance on municipal water supply wells.

The main pollutants are trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene--or TCE and PCE--solvents widely used for dry cleaning and degreasing metal parts. The chemicals are thought to have been spilled or leaked by many companies over the years and to have seeped through the soil to ground water.

In North Hollywood, where a small treatment plant has been operating for four years, the EPA is negotiating with some firms and has sued several others to recoup $17.2 million spent to build and run the treatment system and for a wider investigation of the ground-water problem.

In Burbank, a consent agreement requires Lockheed to take the lead in designing, building and operating a large-scale treatment system.

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Lockheed is also part of the Glendale group of “potentially responsible parties” who responded to the EPA on Tuesday. Others include the Walt Disney Co., Pacific Bell, North American Philips Corp. and ITT Fluid Products Corp.

ITT’s legal counsel James A. Rogers, of the Washington, D. C., law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, also serves as chairman of the legal committee and signed the letter on its behalf.

In the letter, Rogers described the group’s formation as an achievement in itself, because the companies “vary greatly in size, and are dramatically different in their perceptions of liability” for the pollution.

Nonetheless, he expressed hope that the group will be ready by the end of January to sign an agreement with EPA covering design of the Glendale system--which is to purify 5,000 gallons of ground water per minute and serve it to municipal water customers.

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The costs of building and running the system would be left to subsequent agreements or litigation.


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