Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Salt" removal from groundwater (Ha ha ha!) —TOXIC PLUMES IN OC

Naturally, Irvine Valley College sits atop the toxic plume. The "Principle Aquifer Treatment Plant"
 is located across the street from the campus. (Click on graphic.)
     This morning, I noticed a relatively obscure item at the OC Register website. It's a post on Pat Brennan’s OC Science blog:

Courtroom conflict: $200 million toxic plume

There, Brennan reports that
     An eight-square-mile plume of toxic contamination [much of it in Fullerton] moving slowly through northern Orange County groundwater could take decades to clean up — with costs running as high as $200 million.
. . .
     The main courtroom combatants are the Orange County Water District, which has already begun what will likely be one of the longest, costliest cleanups in county history, and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., accused of contributing a significant amount of the contamination during 30 years of industrial operations in Anaheim.
     Brennan quotes Duane Miller, the OC Water District’s lead attorney as saying: “[The litigation is] long, technical and complicated … I don’t think it will make front-page news.”
     Yeah, the public shall remain clueless. That’s the plan, I bet.
     The county wants the companies that caused the toxicity problem in the first place to pay for the cleanup. But, natch, those firms don’t want to pay the full freight. Hence the litigation.
     Among the contaminants is TCE, a known carcinogen. Does that ring a bell, Dissenters?
     Northrop says it is already in the process of remedying the situation it helped cause:
     The cleanup involves sinking a series of wells to extract the contaminated water, piping all of it to a treatment plant to remove the volatile organic compounds, and injecting the clean water back into the aquifer.
     Gosh, that sounds awfully familiar.
From today's Reg article: Fullerton problem like the Irvine problem
     I wrote in a comment:
     What, no mention of the similar cleanup problem in Irvine owing to the El Toro Marine Base toxic plume? See the site for the Irvine Ranch Water District, especially: Irvine Desalter Project.
     Years ago, the IRWD website was pretty upfront about the cleanup effort—although choosing to call the project “desalter” is pretty shady. Back then, to keep the situation on the Q.T.,  I suppose the district counted on the fact that nobody visited their website. Dissent the Blog messed that all up by reporting (Jan. 14, 2006) on the toxic waste cleanup info found at the IRWD website. That drew attention to the situation from all over the place, it seemed.

This is among the info one used to find at the IRWD website
     Well, whatever the reason, the IRWD website now makes it dang difficult to get info about the decontamination project. I tried to find something there about toxic waste, and I got nowhere. But then I used their search engine. I searched “Navy” and got six hits, including:

IRWD Presents Update on Irvine Desalter Project to Irvine City Council Published Wednesday, September 15, 2010

There, I found this:
     Last night, IRWD Director of Water Quality, John Hills, presented an update on the Irvine Desalter Project to the Irvine City Council. This project is designed to contain and clean up the TCE plume that was found in the groundwater in the vicinity of the former El Toro Marine Air Station. The project which began operating in 2007, pumps and treats the water from the plume to remove the TCE. Cleaned water is used only for non-drinking water purposes in IRWD's extensive recycled water system. It provides 1.3 billion gallons of water annually to supplement the non-drinking water system; enough water to irrigate 1,300 acres of landscaping. Project partners include the Orange County Water District and the United States Department of the Navy.
     At the above page, if one clicks on the “Irvine Desalter Project” link, one is taken to a site called “El Toro. Get The Facts,” which is a bit like clicking on “William Shakespeare” and then ending up at a site about Francis Bacon's double life.
     There, we are told
     In 1985 … TCE … was found in portions of the groundwater basin beneath the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and central Irvine. TCE is a volatile organic compound … that was widely used as a solvent for aircraft cleaning. Prior to the development of stricter environmental regulations in the mid-1970’s, it was common to dispose of cleaning solvents by simply rinsing off the aircraft and allowing the runoff to run into the ground. As a result of these past disposal practices, a one-by-three mile plume of contamination now extends off the base (see map to right). The contamination is about 150 feet deep beneath the base and 300-700 feet deep in the community area.
. . .
     Drinking water in Irvine has been and continues to be absolutely safe. IRWD’s drinking water meets or exceeds all state and federal water quality requirements. IRWD maintains a state-certified water quality laboratory that performs more than a quarter of a million tests annually on our water supply to ensure that high quality water is monitored and maintained. The plume is several miles from IRWD’s drinking water well field and therefore does not affect IRWD’s drinking water supply.
. . .
     IRWD, the Orange County Water District and the United States Department of the Navy have completed a joint project, the Irvine Desalter Project [ha ha!], also known as IDP [ha ha ha!], which is designed to clean up the TCE plume. IDP began full operation in January 2007 and pumps water from the plume of TCE contamination. Following treatment to remove the TCE, this water is used only for non-drinking purposes. Each year IDP provides 1.3 billion gallons of clean water for non-drinking water purposes, which is enough to irrigate 1,300 acres of landscaping. The cleanup of the plume is expected to take approximately 40 years.
     Sure, if you say so. (I put the map referred to above at the start of this post.)

     P.S.: I Googled “desalter” and got a list, starting with a Wikipedia entry. The latter begins, “A desalter is a process unit on an oil refinery that removes salt from the crude oil.”
     Yeah. It removes salt, dude. Not those pesky carcinogens.

* * *

     Back in 2006, I reported on the curious IRWD facility across the street from the college (here). Here's an excerpt:


     Earlier today, I walked across the street to ET-1 to check it out. Right away, I encountered a pair of signs. These prove that the people down at the IRWD have a wicked sense of humor:

     The ET-1 facility is set back from Jeffrey a hundred yards (on one side), but it's pretty much right up against Irvine Center Drive (on the other), where it is surrounded by a ragged barbed wire fence. There's a sign that identifies the facility. Once again, something--maybe not a sense of humor, maybe something darker--is in evidence:

     (Just for laughs, let's imagine how the sign would read in a less BS-impacted world:

     Now, here's a fascinating factoid. About ten or fifteen feet from this facility--a facility used to clean toxin-contaminated water--is a strawberry field!

     That tears it. No more strawberries for me!
     I walked to the middle of the complex and peered through the fence. What I saw amazed me. I held my camera over the fence and took a cock-eyed snap. I felt like Warren Beatty in Parallax View! Here's what I got:

     The picture doesn't really convey how deep and big that hole is. It appears that IRWD is constructing a super-duper TCE-sucking gizmo. Wow.
     Well, what do you make of it all?
     If you find out later that I disappeared under suspicious circumstances, do remember about this pic.
     And remember: Klaatu barada nikto. --CW

P.P.S.: looks like somebody else has commented on today’s Register blog post:
I worked for a company in 1968 in the Irvine Industrial park. One of our supervisors ordered us to dump 800 gallons of cyanide behind the plant on the bare ground-when I told him it was illegal he asked me if I wanted to stay employed. I notified the city a few years later. They blew me off. Happy tap water folks. [Rich Middleton]


Anonymous said...

Cover ups abound in our world from the Gulf oil spill and who was at fault to the toxic plume probably from the Air Station under parts of Irvine and IVC. Years of neglect, not listening to the best our science can offer, and often a disregard for nature (including us) have given us sites all over the nation and world that are toxic, And to our detriment.

Anonymous said...

OK - now I'm really scared. No more water from the IVC drinking fountains for me.

No Will

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