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EPA Prioritizes Cleanup of Orange County North Basin Groundwater

Twenty-One Sites Targeted for Immediate, Intense Attention Nationwide

Contact Information: 
Nahal Mogharabi (

LOS ANGELES – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the list of Superfund sites that Administrator Pruitt has targeted for immediate and intense attention. The 21 sites on the list – from across the United States – are in direct response to the Superfund Task Force Recommendations, issued this summer, calling for this list. The Orange County North Basin, which provides much of the water used in 22 cities, including parts of Fullerton, Anaheim and Placentia, has been selected.

“By elevating these sites we are sending a message that EPA is, in fact, restoring its Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the Agency’s mission,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.  “Getting toxic land sites cleaned up and revitalized is of the utmost importance to the communities across the country that are affected by these sites. I have charged the Superfund Task Force staff to immediately and intently develop plans for each of these sites to ensure they are thoughtfully addressed with urgency. By getting these sites cleaned up, EPA will continue to focus on ways we can directly improve public health and the environment for people across America.” 

In developing this initial list, EPA considered sites that can benefit from Administrator Pruitt’s direct engagement and have identifiable actions to protect human health and the environment.  These are sites requiring timely resolution of specific issues to expedite cleanup and redevelopment efforts.  The list is designed to spur action at sites where opportunities exist to act quickly and comprehensively. The Administrator will receive regular updates on each of these sites.

Orange County Water District (OCWD), under EPA oversight, is currently conducting an interim remedial investigation and feasibility study to address groundwater contamination in the Orange County North Basin. OCWD has agreed to complete this study and work with EPA so that cleanup can begin as soon as possible. Since the workplan was approved by EPA in June 2017, 11 monitoring wells have been constructed and sampled and an additional 10 monitoring wells are planned for construction.  The data collected as part of this study will provide EPA with the information needed to develop an initial remedy that will prevent further vertical and horizontal migration. 

The groundwater plume is contaminated with chlorinated solvents and other contaminants covering over five square miles. Contamination in the North Basin is believed to be the result of spills and leaks from industrial activities in the area such as manufacturing and metals processing businesses that utilized solvents as well as dry cleaning facilities over the last several decades. There are many properties in the North Basin where historical industrial activity has contaminated the soil and groundwater with chemicals, including tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), 1,1-dichloroethene (1,1-DCE), and 1,4-dioxane.

EPA is considering listing the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) to further expedite cleanup of the groundwater basin. EPA received a letter from the State of California on June 28, 2017, in support of placing this site on the NPL.

EPA remains dedicated to addressing risks at all Superfund sites, not just those on the list. The Task Force Recommendations are aimed at expediting cleanup at all Superfund sites and Administrator Pruitt has set the expectation that there will be a renewed focus on accelerating work and progress at all Superfund sites across the country.

The Task Force, whose work is ongoing, has five overarching goals:

·         Expediting cleanup and remediation;

·         Reinvigorating cleanup and reuse efforts by potentially responsible parties;

·         Encouraging private investment to facilitate cleanup and reuse;

·         Promoting redevelopment and community revitalization; and

·         Engaging with partners and stakeholders.

The Task Force will provide the public with regular updates as it makes progress on the Administrator’s Emphasis list and other Task Force activities.

The list is intended to be dynamic. Sites will move on and off the list as appropriate.  At times, there may be more or fewer sites based on where the Administrator’s attention and focus is most needed.  There is no commitment of additional funding associated with a site’s inclusion on the list.

The list of sites can be found here.

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