The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on September 1 the addition of the Orange County North Basin groundwater contamination site, which includes parts of Fullerton, Anaheim, and Placentia, to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), making it now eligible for federal funding and support for cleanup.
Releases of contamination at this site pose human health and environmental risks, according to the EPA.
The Orange County North Basin includes parts of Anaheim, Fullerton, and Placentia, and is part of the larger Orange County Groundwater Basin. The groundwater plume is contaminated with chlorinated solvents and other contaminants and it covers approximately five square miles.
According to the Orange County Water District (OCWD), “Manufacturing industries operating primarily in the 1950s, 60s and 70s left a legacy of industrial pollutants at their former factories. The pollutants, mostly volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including solvents and degreasers, have migrated through the soils and are now leaching into the underlying groundwater. These VOCs have impacted nearby water supply wells causing four of them to be taken out of service.”
OCWD, working with EPA, has completed the installation of 25 new monitoring wells at 13 locations. These wells complement the extensive network of 80 existing monitoring wells OCWD previously installed to characterize groundwater contamination in the North Basin area.
OCWD has already placed into operation extraction well (EW-1). EW-1 is in the northeast North Basin area and where the contaminant plume is diving down into the Principal zone and threatening nearby production wells. The operation of EW-1 was deemed too important to wait for EPA listing because of the threat to nearby production wells. Continuous extraction from this well acts as a safety net to capture contamination before it can migrate downward and into the Principal Aquifer Zone. That well has been operational since October of 2017.
Seventy percent of the water served in Orange County is from groundwater, making the basin a critical water resource for 2.4 million residents in 22 cities. All drinking water currently served by water purveyors meets federal and state drinking water standards.
“By placing the Orange County North Basin Site on the National Priorities List, the EPA is showing its commitment to clean up groundwater contamination in northern Orange County,” EPA Regional Administrator John Busterud said. “Today’s action is a big step forward in protecting an essential drinking water source for generations to come.”
The National Priorities List includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.
Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites. Research has shown residential property values increase up to 24% within 3 miles of sites after cleanup.
The Orange County North Basin site will be Fullerton’s second Superfund site. The first was the McColl Dump Site, which was a repository for oil refinery waste in the 1940s, and became a Superfund site in the 1990s, leading to some environmental remediation efforts.
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