Tainted Soil to Be Shipped to Texas


After inciting a fracas in two states, hundreds of tons of DDT-tainted soil dug from a South Bay neighborhood will travel by truck to Texas to be incinerated, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday.

That decision comes after Arizona residents raised vociferous objections to having the soil stored in Phoenix, with some insisting that it be shipped back to California.

Now, EPA officials are clearly hoping that an incinerator near Port Arthur, Tex., will prove to be the final resting place for the soil.

“We want to put this issue to bed,” said EPA assistant regional counsel John Lyons, who has spent weeks negotiating the disposal of the 1,000 tons of dirt contaminated with the banned pesticide.


Because of local pressures, the federal government faces an Aug. 29 deadline to have the 65 sealed bins of soil removed from storage facilities in Phoenix and Long Beach.

Some soil is stored in Long Beach under an emergency state permit that expired Monday and that the state has extended by two weeks. Meanwhile, the EPA says it has promised Arizona officials that the remaining soil will be out of their state by Aug. 29.

The contaminated soil has touched off concern since the spring day it was unearthed behind two homes in an unincorporated area east of Torrance during an EPA cleanup.

Because chunks of pure DDT were mixed in with the soil, the EPA concluded that the banned pesticide came from the former DDT-manufacturing Montrose Chemical Corp., once located three-tenths of a mile away.


But Montrose maintains that the federal government’s claim is based on circumstantial evidence. So lawyers for the two sides struck a compromise last month, agreeing that the soil would be moved from Long Beach to a Phoenix storage facility for up to three months so that it could be tested by Montrose.

When opposition flared in Arizona, the EPA halted the soil shipments, leaving 38 bins in Phoenix and 27 in Long Beach. The agency notified Montrose on Monday that it has arranged to have the soil burned at a hazardous waste facility operated by Chemical Waste Management Inc. near Port Arthur.

Still unclear is whether Montrose will get a chance to sample the dirt as it requested.

“In terms of direct evidence of what’s in the soil, the soils are it. Once they are destroyed, there will be no further ability to sample them,” said attorney Karl Lytz of Latham & Watkins, the law firm representing Montrose.


But the EPA’s Lyons countered: “Frankly, our primary commitment is to see that the material leaves the temporary storage sites and gets to Port Arthur and gets treated as quickly as possible.”

The EPA plans to charge Montrose for the expected $850,000 cost of incineration, although Montrose has not said it will pay.