New details will be unveiled Thursday about the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to clean up contaminated groundwater from two Superfund sites in the Harbor Gateway area.
The EPA is working to treat and contain water contaminated with three decades worth of chemicals: monochlorobenzene, chlorobenzene, benzene and other contaminants. It will oversee construction of a water treatment plant and of water wells.
The 18-month plan, which is set to begin on March 18, will require construction at and near 20201 Normandie Ave.
"We want to make sure we have an honest communication, so we could be minimally disruptive," said Kevin Mayer, the EPA's remedial project manager.
Along with other thoroughfares, parts of Normandie Avenue, Francisco Street, West 209th Street and South Royal Boulevard will be affected by the drilling and construction of the water wells.
Mayer said the Harbor Gateway community might not notice the work immediately because building will begin behind the fences of the former Montrose Chemical Corp. Then crews will move from Francisco Street to 204th Street in the industrial area farther north, he said.
But work will become more disruptive in the summer when construction moves into residential areas, Mayer said.
The Montrose Chemical site was placed in the National Priorities List of Superfund Sites some 24 years ago.
For 3 1/2 decades, Montrose Chemical Corp. manufactured DDT, a popular pesticide that the U.S. banned in 1972 because it posed serious health risks. The groundwater in this 13-acre stretch is contaminated with chlorobenzene and other chemicals.
Nearby, the 280-acre Del Amo Plant produced synthetic rubber using styrene-butadiene for 29 years. The plant put waste into six unlined pits and three unlined ponds, later covering both with soil.
Although styrene-butadiene itself isn't problematic, a chemical used to make it is.
Benzene "is a carcinogen, and it also has other noncarcinogenic effects if you're exposed to too much for a long period," Mayer said.
David Rusher said he isn't too worried. He works at a family-owned business less than a half-mile from the Del Amo and Montrose Superfund sites, areas identified as having uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste.
"I've heard about it for years. I've gotten mailings and publications," said Rusher, president of a contractor company.
"It's gone on a long time, and nothing's been done about it for so long. There's been no progress that's been measurable, so apathy has set in," he added.
But Mayer said the Thursday meeting at 19800 S. Vermont Ave. will set the stage for future conversations about the project now that, for the first time, the EPA has a complete design for the entire undertaking.
"Opening a dialogue is important to the EPA, and I hope that they find that it's worthwhile for them to get involved to give us what we need to do our job well," Mayer said.
The EPA will section off individual blocks to put in pipelines for the wells. Each block should be affected for a maximum of two weeks, Mayer said. People may also have to deal with open trenches and have to park on the street instead of their driveway for a few days, he added.
Sam Kalogeropoulous, the owner of a burger restaurant along the pathway of the well drilling, said he understands the work may affect his business but also sees the potential for serving more customers.
"Lane closures and closing the street - I mean that's going to affect it, but there's not much I can do about that," said Kalogeropoulous, who has owned the restaurant for a year.
On the positive side, he said, "You got construction workers. They're going to come and eat. The residents here ... hopefully they're going to come and eat, too. It all depends."
People who drink water with a surplus of chlorobenzene for a prolonged amount of time could experience problems with their liver or kidneys, the EPA says.
Yet Mayer said people living and working in the Harbor Gateway area should not be worried about the quality of their water.
"We're absolutely certain that the drinking water being supplied to this neighborhood is not contaminated with these chemicals, and it meets all standards," he said.
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Want to go?
What: Information session about the EPA's groundwater cleanup project
When: 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Holiday Inn, 19800 S. Vermont Ave., Torrance, CA
Plus: Light snacks and Spanish interpretation available