Ground-Water Probe Clears 900 Businesses

To the relief of nearly 900 area businesses, federal environmental officials Monday declared another batch of local companies innocent of ground-water contamination in the southeastern San Fernando Valley, removing the threat of costly cleanup bills.

The announcement brings to 2,290 the number of Valley companies that have been exempted in the past year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from participating in a massive Superfund cleanup project. Another 500 to 700 businesses are expected to be exonerated at the end of the year.

However, hundreds of firms remain under investigation for possible involvement in polluting ground water with solvents and other dangerous chemicals, which triggered the estimated $300-million Superfund cleanup campaign at four sites in North Hollywood, Burbank and Glendale.

So far, the EPA and the Los Angeles/Ventura Regional Water Quality Control Board have identified about 140 parties as responsible for tainting area ground water, said Karen Caesar, a spokeswoman for the water quality control board. The culprits range from the giant Lockheed Corp. to a dry-cleaners in Burbank, with investigators now focusing on a cluster of businesses in the Glendale area, EPA project manager Dave Seter said.


“They’re not all big companies. Some are quite small,” he said.

Caesar said a final round of companies will probably be cleared of wrongdoing next year to close out the investigation, now in its seventh year.

The EPA has been under some pressure from the Republican-controlled Congress to speed up or reduce its cleanup programs.