Bridgeport Update: County says ARCO clean-up plan “inadequate”

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Residents of Seal Beach's Bridgeport neighborhood picket ARCO station on Pacific Coast Highway, Saturday, April 24. Photo by Bill McNally

Orange County officials called ARCO’s plan for cleaning up the Bridgeport neighborhood “inadequate” last week.

County health officials have given ARCO/BP 60 days to revise the Corrective Action Plan for cleaning up the site of a Bridgeport neighborhood gas station in Seal Beach.

A Monday, April 19 letter from the Orange County Health Care Agency appears to support excavation, also known as “dig and haul,” as the best method for cleaning up the toxic site.

In related news, approximately 25-30 Bridgeport residents picketed the ARCO station on Pacific Coast Highway on Saturday, April 24, in an apparent attempt to pressure ARCO to comply with the health agency’s direction.

In February, Atlantic Richfield Company/BP America, Inc., submitted a Corrective Action Plan for cleaning up the contaminated soil and ground water in the part of the Bridgeport neighborhood nearest the Seal Beach ARCO station. Twenty-five homes are in the “study zone” near the station. There are 175 homes in Bridgeport.

In the CAP, ARCO listed four options. The ARCO plan said using chemical oxidation to break down toxins in the soil was the company’s preferred method of decontamination. While the OC Health Care Agency did not use a simple sentence to say so, the April 19 letter did indicate that excavation had strong support.

“They presented four options, as you know,” said Richard Sanchez, director of environmental health for the HCA.  Sanchez was one of two county officials who signed the letter. The other official was Anthony Martinez, a senior engineering geologist for the health agency.

“We narrowed it down to basically excavation of the material on the site of the gas station with perhaps some alternative methods used to remove the contamination off site,” Sanchez told the Sun.

However, Matt Rezvani, general manager for external affairs for ARCO/BP in La Palma, pointed out that the county letter also said that excavation would not eliminate all soil vapor or groundwater contamination in the area.

“We will comply with all of the requests outlined in that letter,” Rezvani said.

After pointing out the support for excavation from the public and other agencies, the Health Care Agency letter requested 22 revisions to the original clean up plan.

Rezvani said everyone wants to do what is best for cleaning up the site. If excavation turns out to be what is best, then the site will be excavated.

“We know there is a lot of interest in that,” Rezvani said, referring to excavation.

Support for “dig and haul”

According to the letter, the county received 51 written and 30 verbal comments on the ARCO plan. The letter said the “vast majority” of the comments favored excavation. The letter also pointed out that the Bridgeport Technical Advisory Committee and the city of Seal Beach favor excavation.

The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board has also concluded excavation was the best solution to the problem, according to the letter.

The county health agency also pointed out that the contamination problems at the ARCO site have gone on for approximately 24 years.

One of the issues raised in the April 19 letter is cost effectiveness. Legally, the company is allowed to use a cost effective method for cleaning up the site.

“The estimated costs for the pilot testing and reporting for three of the remedial alternatives seem low,” said the Health Care Agency letter.

The letter said cost effectiveness was one of the factors in planning the decontamination of any underground storage tank case, health risks and disruption to the community required a plan that provided the fastest and most certain remedy for the problem.

Residents living nearest the gas station are concerned that they are at increased risk of developing cancer as a result of possible exposure to benzene. The chemical benzene is found in gasoline vapors and is known to cause cancer. Gas vapors were detected in Bridgeport soil last year.

While all four alternatives had the potential to clean up the Bridgeport site “only excavation of the source area provides the highest level of certainty” for this case, according to the letter.

Demonstration

However, some Bridgeport residents are concerned that ARCO would not follow the county’s direction. Bridgeport resident Robert Goldberg told the Sun that a demonstration was held Saturday, April 24, to encourage ARCO to proceed with “dig and haul.” The protest took the form of an early morning picket of the PCH gas station by 25-30 Bridgeport residents, according to Goldberg. Ironically, the protesters chose the day of the Seal Beach Car Show as the day to picket the gas station.

Both Goldberg and ARCO’s La Palma General Manager Rezvani described the demonstration as peaceful.

Rezvani said the company appreciated the fact that the protest was “done safely.”

“The important thing is that we appreciate folks taking their time to express their opinions about how the site should be cleaned up,” Rezvani said.

Rezvani also expressed appreciation for the demonstration not disrupting the dealer’s business. Rezvani pointed out that the man who owns the station is not an ARCO employee.

Goldberg told the Sun that the picketers had persuaded some motorists to buy their gasoline at another station, even though the price dropped by about 10 cents a gallon.

Rezvani said ARCO would follow the county health agency’s final decision on cleaning up the Bridgeport sight.

As previously reported in the Sun, Seal Beach City Manager David Carmany said the county has the final authority on how the site is cleaned up.

According to the Web site for ARCO, there are “nearly” 1,300 stations on the West Coast.

Bridgeport Update: County says ARCO clean-up plan “inadequate”