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News Releases from Region 09

U.S. EPA requires PCB cleanup at Coachella Valley substations

Contact Information: 
Nahal Mogharabi (Mogharabi.nahal@epa.gov)

LOS ANGELES — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Imperial Irrigation District after the utility company expended nearly $1.25 million to address its improper disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at electricity substations in Indio and Coachella, Calif. This action is a result of nine environmental audits the company conducted as part of a Toxic Substances Control Act settlement with EPA in February, 2015.

In compliance with the prior settlement, IID discovered that two of the nine inactive substations audited had PCB contamination in violation of TSCA. The company spent $685,000 to clean up its former Indio substation, including the removal of 1,863 tons of soils and debris. At its former Coachella substation, the company spent $368,000 to conduct a cleanup that included the disposal of 31 tons of soil and debris. The utility spent $190,000 for an independent auditor to perform evaluations at the nine substations in Indio, Mecca, Brawley, El Centro and Calexico.

“The cleanups performed by Imperial Irrigation District have reduced the impacts of legacy PCB contamination in Coachella Valley,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA’s goal is to protect public health and the environment from the risks of PCBs.”

As the February 12, 2015 enforcement action required IID to pay a $379,000 civil penalty and perform the audits, no additional monetary penalties were imposed by today’s settlement. Pursuant to the prior action, IID replaced 16 regulators, one transformer and three oil circuit breakers with non-PCB containing equipment at active facilities in its service area. The company removed 78,530 pounds of PCBs from the environment as a result of completing this supplemental environmental project.

IID is the sixth largest utility in California, providing electric power to over 145,000 customers in the Imperial Valley and parts of Riverside County. Its former substation in Indio, which operated from 1943 to1990, is located at the northeast corner of Highway 111 and King Street; the Riverside County Courthouse, a middle school, and numerous businesses are located within a half-mile radius. IID’s former substation in Coachella, which operated from 1948 to 1989, is at the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Vine Avenue; it is also located in a densely populated area with an elementary school, a middle school, and residences located within a half-mile.

PCBs are man-made organic chemicals used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and cooling oil for electrical transformers. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978. Acute PCB exposure can adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems as well as liver function. Concerns about human health and the extensive presence and lengthy persistence of PCBs in the environment led Congress to enact the TSCA in 1976.           

For more information on PCBs, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/pcbs