BAY POINT -- Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is working on a new cleanup plan for the polluted Shell Pond it owns after an initial effort was put on hold when dredging work stirred up a stink.
The delay means that work will not likely resume until next year. While it was estimated the original cleanup would take all of last year to finish, it is too early to say how long the revised cleanup will take to complete.
PG&E acquired the 73-acre former wastewater pond and an adjacent 22-acre parcel in 1973 when it purchased a larger parcel from Shell Oil Products. The utility bought the land with the intention of using it as a site for a future power plant. It turned out to be unsuitable for that purpose, and PG&E was required to maintain and clean up the property it had purchased.
Years of studies and temporary remedial efforts ensued before a plan was approved by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, the lead regulatory agency overseeing the cleanup. From 1950 to 1973, Shell discharged wastewater containing carbon black, metals and other compounds from its chemical plant into the pond and adjacent 22-acre parcel. Plans called for removing an estimated 240,000 cubic yards of material and disposing of it at the Keller Canyon Landfill.
The pond would then be paved, a levee breached and the land parcel replanted to restore the area to a tidal wetlands and open space. After the cleanup was done, PG&E planned to meet with community members to consider adding recreational features such as an interpretive center, hiking trails and picnic areas.
Soon after initial dredging got under way in January 2012, the work was halted in response to complaints made to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District about unpleasant smells similar to diesel or motor oil impacting the nearby Shore Acres Elementary School.
"PG&E is working with DTSC and local regulatory agencies to redesign the project to minimize impacts. This redesign process includes evaluation of several alternative means of removing sediments from the pond without generating unacceptable odors," Department of Toxic Substances Control spokesman Sandy Nax wrote in an email.
"Our goal is to submit a (revised) engineering plan to department by March 2013, and at that point have agency review and public input," PG&E spokesman Jason King said. "We will not move forward with the project until we are confident we can do the work (without the odors or other off-site impacts)."
It's likely that the cleanup project would not resume until sometime in 2014, he said. "It's a thorough (review) process that the department goes through," King said. "We're looking forward to the day when the cleanup can continue."
The delay also meant that jobs for about a dozen Bay Point residents related to the cleanup also had to be put on hold.
"When the project resumes, we will restart the local hires," King said.
Debra Mason, who sits on the Bay Point Municipal Advisory Council, said it's frustrating that the work had be stopped.
"It would have been done by now," she said.
Mason said now that the cleanup has become "a bigger headache," she is hopeful PG&E will move forward with the post-cleanup recreational features. "Hopefully, all of that can still happen," she said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.