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U.S. EPA reaches milestone at one of the most contaminated sites in the nation, cleaning up more than 11 tons of toxins

Release Date: 02/05/2008
Contact Information: Mary Simms, 415-947-4270,

For Immediate Release: February 5, 2008

Contact: Mary Simms, 415-947-4270,

U.S. EPA reaches milestone at one of the most contaminated sites in the nation, cleaning up more than 11 tons of toxins

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Shell Oil Company have removed more than 23,000 pounds of hazardous toxins from the Del Amo Superfund Site Waste Pits near Torrance, Calif.

With EPA oversight, responsible parties Shell Oil Company and the U.S. General Services Administration built a soil vapor extraction system at the Del Amo Waste Pits and have been successfully operating it for one year. The system stops further contamination of area groundwater, a potential drinking water resource.

“A common challenge for a project of this nature is how to extract harmful toxins in a safe and effective manner,” said Keith Takata, Superfund Division director for the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “EPA worked with its partners to select an approach that utilizes natural bacteria in the ground to destroy the contamination. This is an excellent example of how the EPA collaborates with local and state agencies, and community groups to achieve a common goal of protecting human health and the environment.”

The site’s soil treatment system uses a vacuum to extract vapors from the ground. The majority of the extracted vapors are re-injected back underground with the addition of oxygen -- enabling natural bacteria underground to flourish and consume the contamination. The remaining extracted vapors are sent through a carbon filtration system, and cleansed before being discharged into the air. To date, the treatment system has removed more than 23,000 pounds of contaminants.

Throughout the clean up, the EPA has worked closely with California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control to protect residents in the area. During the early process of identifying and evaluating the best vapor treatment options, EPA officials collaborated with many public interest groups including: the Del Amo Action Committee, California Communities Against Toxics, the Sierra Club, the Los Angeles County Health Department, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

On the corner of Vermont Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard, the area was used as an industrial dump site for a World War II era synthetic rubber plant. After the war, the government sold the facility to Shell, who continued to operate the plant until 1972. Toxic waste, including benzene, naphthalene and ethyl benzene contaminated the underlying soil and groundwater.

The EPA will continue to oversee clean up efforts at the waste pits area, which are expected to take approximately 10-15 years.

For more information on the progress at the site, please visit: or!OpenDocument.