Airport, Lockheed reach groundwater settlement

Bob Hope Airport officials have agreed to pay $2 million to Lockheed Martin Corp. in exchange for a guarantee from the aerospace company that it will cover the cost of what is expected to be a $108-million cleanup of contaminated groundwater under a portion of the airport.

Airport officials hailed the deal in an announcement Friday as an economical solution to a problem that could have cost much more. Lockheed spokesman Gary Cambre said the settlement "is fair and equitable," with the airport paying its share of costs and Lockheed Martin agreeing to work with the EPA and the other potentially responsible parties.

In July 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency named the airport, Lockheed and others as potentially responsible parties for toxic groundwater caused by aircraft manufacturing during and after World War II. The EPA estimated the potential cost of the cleanup at $108 million.

Airport officials said the facility is not responsible for any of the soil pollution and sued Lockheed to force it to accept liability. They said Lockheed agreed in 1978 — when it sold the property that is now the airport — to pay eventual cleanup costs.

Lockheed officials countered that they would fulfill their obligations under the 1978 agreement, but also said their operations did not cause all of the contamination beneath the airfield.

In February, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority board voted to raise parking fees at the airport by $1 to cover the cost of the litigation. Executive Director Dan Feger said at the time the litigation, which was not included in the budget, would be costly.

In a statement issued on Friday, airport authority president and Glendale City Councilman Frank Quintero characterized the $2-million settlement as a “pure business decision.”

“We have always maintained, and still maintain, that the authority has not contributed in any way to groundwater pollution at the airport,” he said.

The airport will continue to charge the increased parking fee for “several years” in order to cover legal costs and the $2-million settlement.

“I think the authority is pleased to have any uncertainty out of the way,” airport spokesman Victor Gill said. “It will prove to be the most economically advantageous action to take.”

The dispute addresses what the EPA calls the North Hollywood Operable Unit, which includes the western portion of the airfield. The EPA has not yet assigned cleanup responsibility for a separate contaminated area, which also includes part of the former Lockheed property that is now part of the airport.

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