Seal Beach council prefers “dig and haul” for Bridgeport

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Map of the Bridgeport homes nearest the ARCO station on Pacitic Coast Highway.

Seal Beach officials believe digging and hauling away contaminated soil is the best option for decontaminating the area near the gas station in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

That was the gist of a letter sent last week to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The letter, approved by the City Council on Monday, March 22, represented the city’s official comment on the Corrective Action Plan proposed by Atlantic Richfield Company/British Petroleum for cleaning up the area near the gas station at 490 Pacific Coast Highway.

In related news, the Bridgeport Technical Advisory Committee sent their own letter to the HCA on Monday, March 29 that also recommended the “dig and haul” option.

The committee  is a citizen’s group made up of five Bridgeport residents with backgrounds in environmental engineering.

The letter, sent on Monday, March 29, argued that the ARCO plan did not address groundwater contamination.

The committee’s letter also said the ARCO plan was based on inadequate data and proposed “inadequate clean up level goals.”

The issue of cleaning up the Bridgeport area became acute last year when gas vapors were detected in the soil near the ARCO gas station at 490 Pacific Coast Highway.

This triggered increased attention on the site from both Orange County health officials and Seal Beach officials.

There have been at least two leaks from the ARCO station since the 1980s.

Twenty-five homes in the Bridgeport neighborhood are located in the contamination area, known as the “study zone.”

Bridgeport residents living outside the study zone are concerned because their property values have been lowered by being so close to a toxic area.

Recently, ARCO proposed four possible plans for cleaning up the site.

The ARCO consultant recommended chemical oxidation, which the Corrective Action Plan described as “promising.”

However, on Monday, March 22, the City Council members indicated they preferred “dig and haul,” meaning the excavation and removal of contaminated soil to address both the polluted dirt and the groundwater in the area.

The question came before the council in the form of a draft letter that would be signed by the city manager if the council approved.

The letter was to be sent to the county Health Care Agency before March 31.

That was the deadline for public comment on the clean up plan.

District 3 Councilman Gordon Shanks said the people of Bridgeport had been waiting for 24 to 26 years for the site to be permanently cleaned up.

Shanks said the only permanent solution was to “dig it out.”

The audience responded with applause.

District 1 Councilman Charles Antos said that of the four options, excavation would take about a year.

The others would take two to six years.

Antos didn’t think Bridgeport could wait that long. He said Seal Beach wanted the problem cleaned up.

“I think I agree with Councilman Antos,” said District 4 Councilman Gary Miller.

He said the only fast choice was excavation.

Recently, the Seal Beach Environmental Quality Control Board voted to recommend the chemical oxidation proposal to the City Council.

However, Mario Voce, a member of the board, called that recommendation an error when he spoke to the City Council on Monday, March 22.

Voce said that on the night of the environmental board meeting, the board did not have the expertise of the city’s consultant, ARCO’s consultant or the Bridgeport Technical Advisory Committee.

Nick Ta, a member of the Technical Advisory Committee, said that groundwater flows from the gas station to the Bridgeport neighborhood. The soil under the gas station was, in turn, contaminating the groundwater.

Susan Perrell, another TAC member, presented the council with 13 suggestions for improving the proposed letter to the City Council.

Antos said none of the councilmen had the expertise to go over the 13 TAC comments.

Antos said he trusted the city’s consultant to review the recommended changes.

Shanks said he liked the recommendation that the city’s letter to the county emphasize the groundwater.

Shanks also pointed out that the deadline was March 31 and there would not be another council meeting before then.

He moved the council direct the city manager to send the letter to the county as written, with the changes recommended by the advisory committee.

Mayor David Sloan seconded the motion.

The council voted 5-0 to send the letter recommending the “dig and haul” option to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Larry Honeybourne, project manager for the agency, told the Sun Newspapers that the county would need about two weeks to review public comments on the Corrective Action Plan. He said the county’s direction to ARCO would become public in mid-April.

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