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Release Date: 8/5/1999
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA,(415) 744-1578


     (San Francisco) -- In a ceremony at a former Visalia wood treating facility,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials praised Southern California Edison (SCE) for demonstrating the effectiveness of an  innovative technology that uses steam to more effectively remove underground chemical contamination.  The new method could be applied in cleanups at many other sites with groundwater contamination problems throughout the nation.

     "As a result of the pioneering work done here by UC Berkeley, the Lawrence Livermore Lab,  and Edison, the ability of steam-enhanced recovery to dramatically speed up groundwater cleanup has been demonstrated," said John Kemmerer, Superfund Branch Chief in  EPA's western region.  "While it's not a solution  for all groundwater contamination sites, this technology will work faster than traditional pump-and-treat systems in many cases.  We at EPA are pleased to join with the State Department of Toxic Substances Control to recognize Edison's achievement, and we offer our thanks and congratulations."

     "We are very honored by this recognition," said Edison Corporate Secretary Beverly Ryder.  "We believe this affirms our company's tradition of innovation and our longstanding commitment to environmental protection.  More importantly, it recognizes a powerful partnership of business, public agencies, and academia that promises to reap tremendous benefits in efforts to attain clean, safe soil and groundwater.  The federal EPA and Cal/EPA helped create the positive regulatory climate that allowed this successful experiment to proceed."

     The new on-site thermal treatment technology was put to use in Visalia by SCE in cooperation with scientists from the University of California at Berkeley and the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).  This technology  was originally developed to enhance recovery of oil in the petroleum industry. Steam is injected into the ground to drive the contaminants to recovery wells, which pump them to the surface for further treatment.  Since SCE began using this technology in May, 1997, the company has removed over one million pounds of creosote.

     The Visalia site was used from the 1920's to the 1980's to treat wooden power poles with creosote to make them rot-resistant.  Creosote was released onto the ground, where it seeped downward creating subsurface pools which serve as a continuing source of  groundwater contamination.  Similar conditions exist at many Superfund National Priority List sites and other sites throughout the nation where contaminants known as 'dense non-aqueous phase liquids,' or DNAPLs, are present.  

     In 1976, Edison began to address the creosote problem by pumping and treating groundwater.  After operating this cleanup system for many years, the Edison team recognized that creosote was not being removed efficiently, so they worked with researchers at UC Berkeley and LLNL to adapt steam-enhanced extraction to address the problem.

     The scientific work performed at UC Berkeley and LLNL to develop in-situ thermal treatment technologies for remediation of hazardous waste, together with the SCE team's successful use of  this technology at the Visalia Pole Yard, make this site a national model that could  benefit communities with groundwater contamination throughout the nation.

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