"Atlas Tack Superfund site" by CorpsNewEngland is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Mission Vista High School

Superfund Series: Del Amo’s slow and destructive redevelopment process

Located between the cities of Torrance and Carson in Los Angeles County lies an inconspicuous site of development. This area is called the Del Amo Superfund site and is one of eighteen superfund sites in LA County.

As is explained in the first article of the series on the Palos Verdes Shelf, a superfund site is an area marked off by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a priority for restoration efforts. They are usually a result of industrial pollution of years past.

In the case of the Del Amo site, according to the EPA, it is the aftereffect of a synthetic rubber manufacturing plant that operated from 1942 to the late 1960s or early 1970s. It functioned as a plant that was leasable to many companies and then was purchased and managed by the Shell Oil Company from 1955 until its closure.

This synthetic rubber plant poses multiple problems to the environment and public health. The company disposed of waste products such as benzene, which is a known human carcinogen.

Furthermore, the waste pits in which the waste was deposited was largely unregulated and was not lined. This meant that the chemicals could seep into groundwater and contaminate the soil, according to a 1993 report.

Cleanup is a difficult matter as well, as disturbing the area may release volatile organic compounds in the vicinity. Another large concern is the fact that the site is located right next to a residential area. Many people who lived in those residences as children recall encountering waste material in the soil when playing in the area.

Although the waste pits are now off-limits, this was not the case previously; and the decades of exposure have allowed these chemicals to seep deeper and deeper into groundwater reserves, possibly even those that are drinking water wells.

All these factors make the Del Amo Superfund site a particularly difficult case, as is shown by the site’s continued presence on the EPA’s watchlist despite the years that have gone by since its identification as a formidable risk.

Remediation efforts are ongoing. Recently, the EPA has been taking some effective measures on reducing the effects of this superfund site. For one, according to the superfund site’s page on the EPA website, soil vapor systems have been installed, and are found to be effective in restoring and maintaining the health of the environment and people situated near the site.

The EPA has also reached a $56.6 million settlement with the Montrose Chemical Corporation of California, Bayer CropScience, TCFC America, along with other companies, as a result of their involvement in the contamination of the Del Amo Superfund site, as well as the Montrose Chemical Corp. SuperFund site.

These funds will be dedicated toward the cleanup of the two sites, and represent a big step forward in the required reparations of mistakes from decades past.