Financing chromium 6 removal

CITY HALL — A multimillion-dollar, cross-jurisdictional chromium 6 removal project for Glendale wells is scheduled for a major financial boost tonight, when the City Council is expected to make official a $431,122 private industry contribution toward the effort.

Glendale Respondents Group LLC — made up of more than a dozen industrial corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Honeywell that were “potentially” responsible for groundwater contamination over the past several decades — agreed to contribute the money after negotiations this summer with Glendale Water & Power, the lead agency in the ongoing chromium 6 removal research project.

The group already pays roughly $2.7 million annually to operate the Glendale Water Treatment Plant as part of a 1994 agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help mitigate groundwater contamination that occurred decades ago.

The latest deposit would bring Glendale to within about $200,000 of covering the cost of the $4-million demonstration project, which will pit one chromium 6 removal technology against the other at two water treatment facilities along the San Fernando Road corridor.

Glendale Respondents Group made the contribution under pressure from the EPA to reduce the amount of chromium 6 to a level that would meet environmental standards for emergency discharges into the Los Angeles River.

With Glendale well on its way to building the chromium 6 removal demonstration facilities, EPA officials said it made sense for the industrial consortium to contribute to the project as a way to fulfill the obligation.

“In my view, it was a win-win-win for everybody,” said David Stensby, remedial project manager for the San Fernando Valley Superfund site, Glendale area.

Federal and local water officials have lauded Glendale Respondents Group for its willingness to meet the terms of its EPA agreement as a contributing factor to the Superfund site’s remediation plans.

“They’re not writing blank checks, but they’re writing the necessary checks,” said city Water Services Administrator Peter Kavounas.

Combined with millions of dollars in federal, state and private foundation grants, the latest contribution is a “clear sign that we’re moving forward,” he added.

The forward movement of the project is expected to be punctuated tonight when the City Council also considers, and likely approves, a $1.8-million contract with Earth Tech Inc. to design and build the two chromium 6 demonstration facilities.

EPA officials signed off on the plans last week, Stensby said.

Both designs will be based on earlier small-scale pilot projects that successfully removed nearly all the chromium 6 from contaminated water.

The most effective and cost-efficient method will eventually be permanently incorporated into Glendale Water & Power’s water treatment system, paid for by Glendale Respondents Group, which is obligated to ensure the smooth operation of the plant by ensuring that river discharges meet environmental standards, water officials said.

Kyle Kawakami, an attorney who represents the broad coalition of companies in the group, said it would be up to environmental officials to determine the success of the demonstration project.

Chromium 6, or hexavalent chromium, has been shown to cause lung cancer when inhaled. The National Institutes of Health last year found that it also produces cancer in lab animals that drink contaminated water.

The trace amount of chromium 6 in Glendale’s water supply, once blended with majority imports from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and other untainted wells, does not present a health danger, according to Glendale Water & Power.

But contaminants — whether in the form of chromium 6 or other toxic compounds — continue to leech into the groundwater at former manufacturing sites along the San Fernando industrial corridor.

Most of the war-era manufacturing plants have long closed, but the contamination left behind has been a thorn in the side of environmental officials who have been trying to clean up the San Fernando Valley area Superfund site since the late 1980s.

In August, the EPA announced an agreement with the owners of a former aircraft painting and metal finishing site at 711 W. Broadway to further investigate potential chromium 6 cleanup strategies.

A similar agreement was reached in May with Lockheed Martin for 833 Sonora Ave., the former manufacturing site for Loral Librascope, a company that was acquired by the aerospace company in 1996.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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