Escondido Neighbors United
An alliance of engaged residents working for the benefit of rural, urban, and natural communities in the Escondido Area.
July 31, 2014
Mr. Stewart Black, Department of Toxic Substances Control
Mr. Hossein Nassiri, Department of Toxic Substances Control
Mr. Jimmy Smith, Regional Water Quality Control Board
Mr. Craig Carlisle, Regional Water Quality Control Board
Ms. Julie Macedo, State Water Resources Control Board
Mr. Kevin Heaton, San Diego County Department of Environmental Health
RE: Escondido Neighbors United requests, comments, and questions on the Chatham PRP Group Annual Monitoring Report submitted July 11, 2014
Dear Madam and Sirs:
We have had the opportunity to review the July 11, 2014 submittal from the PRP Group and have the following comments, questions, and requests for additional information and analysis. We expect to have additional comments but wanted to offer these observations as we understand that your agencies are discussing this issue now. We hope you will take these comments into consideration in creating any future fact sheets as well.
1. Report should state remedial objectives in full
The report engages in unhelpful ‘creative mis-summarization’ with respect to the remedial objectives. What is presented as a summary accurately summarizes neither the actual objectives nor the ‘practical objectives’ from the Remedial Action Plan (RAP). For example, the requirement that off-site concentrations meet maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) is different than the summarized requirement to monitor contaminants over time to demonstrate improvement. The summary should be removed and the real objectives should be stated in the report or, at a minimum, re-worded (but still accurate) for easier reading as has been done by the Water Board in previous letters. For the record, we repeat the exact wording of the relevant Soil and Groundwater Remedial Action Objectives from the Remedial Action Plan.
a. Prevent migration of VOCs from unsaturated soil into groundwater or surface water in concentrations that could cause groundwater or surface water not to comply with RAOs for the media.
b. Prevent ingestion of groundwater that contains contaminants listed in the RAP (Table 5-1) at concentrations at the MCLs also listed in the Table 5-1.
c. Remediate groundwater within the Property to HBCLs and the groundwater outside of the Property to MCLs for contaminants listed in Table 5-1.
d. Prevent incidental ingestion, dermal contact, or inhalation of vapors from groundwater that contains contaminants listed in Table 5-1 at concentrations exceeding the HBCLs which are also listed in Table 5-1.
We also request that all requirements of the Basin Plan, Porter-Cologne, and Prop 65 that must also be met be listed here as well.
2. SWRBTLs are excessive and should be revisited and reduced to levels comparable with existing regulations, or abandoned.
The current Surface Water Risk Based Threshold Levels (SWRBTL) proposed by the PRP Group and used for notificationand action are simply excessive. We do not believe that we should wait to notify or take action until TCE in surface water reaches 1,700 ug/l when the MCL is 5 ug/l. It is interesting to compare the effluent limits in the Waste Discharge Requirements for groundwater discharges to surface waters for human health which are 2.7-5.4 ug/l for municipal beneficial use and 81-160 ug/l for Non-MUN. In addition, vinyl chloride is one of the contaminants found in the surface water yet no threshold has been set for it. Last, we are incredulous that the SWRBTL for 1,4,-Dioxane is 8,900-340,000ug/l. yet the OEHHA Public Health Protection Level is 3.0 ug/l and the state Source Removal level is 35 ug/l. FC-4 is at a historic high at 31 in April of 2014. We have related questions to this issue listed below.
· The notification action levels for creek pollution should be no higher than the MCLs, effluent limits, or state standards for these priority toxic pollutants.
· An action level should be set for vinyl chloride since it has been found in the creek surface water.
· We request that notification be triggered by the MCLs.
3. Maps should accurately show extent of contamination and recap its movement
The maps on page 41, while dramatic, are misleading. They fails to show the full extent of the contamination in April 2014 and would lead a reader to think this is the extent of the pollution in 2014. It is not. Years ago, the leading edge of the plume as MW-54 (just north of the southern boundary of Felicita Park) with a monitoring result below the MCL. Now we have pollution extending to Fleet 1 over twice the MCLand the plume has moved out on both sides and to previously unimpacted sites. This movement should be documented for the public. Further, as is now clear, the VOCs are just moving and not biodegrading so that the maps on page 41 should also include the deep plumes which still appear to connected by the results of TCE and PCE in MW-39 and TEW-02even though not indicated as such on the figures.
· We request the regulators require all maps to show the full extent of the contamination.
· We request the regulators require a map in each report of the movement of the plumes over time.
4. Maps should reflect all results
The testing of the surface waters show that five other types of contaminants, including vinyl chloride, in addition to TCE have been found in the creek yet only TCE is shown on a map. 1,4-Dioxane was found in all three samples taken for it at historical high concentrations in surface water, yet not presented on a map. Other contaminants present in groundwater include 1,1,2-Trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane (CFC113, Freon 113) in MW 64, MW 67, MW 69, MW72 which should also be mapped.
· We request the regulators require individual maps of PCE, 1,4 Dioxane, vinyl chloride, cis-1,2 DCE and 1,2 DCA, total VOCs, and CFCs in addition to the TCE map of contamination in surface water.
· We request the regulators require individual maps of all contaminants found in groundwater.
5. Report should ‘spin’ less and report facts more objectively
We do not find this report an objective presentation of the results. We understand the potential benefits to some stakeholders of a report written to make the facts appear benign. However, this is a disservice to the process and the public who rely on the reports required by regulatory agencies to inform those actions needed to protect the community. The focus on the reductions and the soft-pedaling on the increases is inappropriate. Yes, the pollution is decreasing—except where it is increasing. For example, there are significant increases in MW-72, Platt 1, and Grubbs1. Interestingly, these are on the east, west, and southern edge of the plume. If the pollution really was naturally attenuating, the outer edges of the plume would not be increasing…they would be decreasing. Further, we do not call an increase of total VOCs by 500% (Platt 1 increased from 4.7 to 30) and 400% (MW 34-N5 in the park increased from 7.5 to 35.5) since October 2013 a ‘slight’ increase. Further, MW- 72 now exceeds its historical maximum by almost 45 ug/l. Grubbs 1 and Platt 1 are also at historical highsand MW-66 and 39 are trending consistently upward.
The other example where we must object is the repeated editorializing that “any increase in the downgradient footprint of the plume is more than offset by the reductions in concentrations and plume footprint…” (emphasis added) We disagree. If one’s life savings are in a home not previously located over a contaminated plume but is now, or if your well used to be clean but is not now, or you live near a well that continues to increase in contamination, then reductions elsewhere decidedly do notmore than offset the problem. In fact, it is not working.
· Regulators are urged to ask the report writers to stop editorializing and just report the results, including a focus on where conditions are worsening.
· We request that the consultants doing the work be funded by the PRP Group but directed by the regulators.
6. Report should present and address all of the results not just selected results that minimize the problems at the site.
We object to the use of TCE as a stand in for all of the contamination from the site. Using Platt 1 as an example, using TCE results only, the ‘slight’ increase of over 100% (from 6.1 to 14 ug/l) in one year. However, the total VOC results are as stated earlier are increased by 500% in one year. Yet, the statement in the report is “VOC concentration data for deep groundwater south of Hamilton Lane indicates a decline in some wells with a long record of monitoring history.” Yes, in some, but others are increasing and the plume is moving into previously uncontaminated areas. The fact that the report fails to focus on this is manipulative and demonstrates extreme bias. Further, different contaminants move at different rates, have different health effects, and turn into different things which may be missed if only TCE is tracked.
· Regulators should require that ALL trends be summarized in the reports.
· We disagree with using TCE alone as the ‘indicator’ contaminant. The full suite of contaminants should be discussed.
· We disagree with the Report’s finding that the distribution provided good correlation with previous distribution. The plume is moving south, east, and west and discharging into Felicita Creekwhere people and wildlife are exposed to multiple contaminants from the Chatham Barrel Yard.
7. Off-Yard soil vapor analysis must be done and reported to the public
The highest off-Yard level of TCE this monitoring round was 280 ug/land total VOCs were 645.2 ug/l at MW-69. The MCL for TCE is 5 ug/l. This location is right underneath homes, adjacent and upgradient of a proposed housing development, the Duck Pond, and Felicita Creek. A major concern with VOC contamination of groundwater is the vapor intrusion into homes and yards. This is also a major concern of our members.
· We request, again, that soil vapor analysis be done for homes located on the plumes so that potential health risks, if any, can be known.
· We would also like to know why this common sense action has not previously been conducted.
8. Chloroform in MW-74, MW-76 and VOCs in MW-26 should be explained
The report dismisses chloroform in two wells as being unrelated to the site without an explanation or identification of another source. There is chloroform in many wells and it was a contaminant of the Chatham site. Perhaps, the chloroform in the plume has traveled all the way to MW-74 to the southeast and to MW-76 to the northeast. The report states that VOCs in MW-26 do not appear to be site relatedbut with no explanation.
· Regulators should require a plume contour to be drawn for chloroform as well as all other contaminants unless the PRPs have identified another source.
9. Previous results should not be considered to be this year’s results.
The failure to monitor Chernish 1is a major failing of the report. This well would demonstrate whether or not the plume has moved even farther to the southeast. We also do not support reporting last year’s results on this year’s maps. If a well is not sampled then NS should be stated. For example, we do not know if the level has risen in the Chernish 1 well because it was not sampled yet it appears as a <1 and <2 for various contaminants.
10.Report should include report on uncontrolled discharge from the treatment system
We do not see the discussion of the break in the groundwater system that resulted in a discharge of vinyl chloride contaminated effluent to land near the Chatham site discussed in the report.
· Regulators should require this upset should be included in this report.
11. Claim of Natural Attenuation is highly suspect and does not comport with the normal definition.
We were surprised to read that “adsorption and biodegradation are not expected to be significant natural attenuation processes.” In our understanding and experience, natural degradation through biological or chemical processes is what natural attenuation is supposed to be. According to the USEPA Website,
Monitored natural attenuation (MNA) is a technique used to monitor or test the progress of natural attenuation processes that can degrade contaminants in soil and groundwater. It may be used with other remediation processes as a finishing option or as the only remediation process if the rate of contaminant degradationis fast enough to protect human health and the environment. Natural processes can then mitigate the remaining amount of pollution; regular monitoring of the soil and groundwater can verify those reductions.(emphasis added)
GWERD scientists have led the way in developing EPA’s approach for applying and assessing monitored natural attenuation (MNA) as a cleanup tool for organic and inorganic contaminants in groundwater. MNA can work with other more active remedial tools at some sites where biogeochemical conditions favor natural processes that degrade or immobilize harmful contaminants.(emphasis added)
Dissipation and degradation are not the same thing. If degradation is not occurring, then we are left with, essentially, just watching the pollution spread out in all directions for “centuries”. This is hardly a remedy.
The evidence that it is occurring is likewise questionable. That the monitored mass is thought to have decreased but not broken down means that the contamination just went elsewhere—either flowed into new area or volatilized in an uncontrolled manner into the environment. And, where is it volatilizing to? Into people’s homes, the creek, the park? This question needs to be answered. We do not agree that ‘gradual dissipation’ or uncontrolled volatilization is natural attenuation or acceptable.
· We request regulators reject the claim that natural attenuation is working and achieving the Remedial Action Objectives and require additional action.
12. Upward flow of deep groundwater is a continual source of exposure
We have been told several times not to worry because the pollution is in a deep groundwater plume. Now we read that some components of the deep VOC plume is “flowing upward in to the shallow zone under the influence of upward hydraulic gradients.”and that “higher concentration VOC mass in the deep zone contributes to the VOC mass in the shallow zone thorough localized upward gradients”. Further, “surface water flow in Felicita Creek is fed by groundwater”. This is bad news. To us, it means that the deep plume will continually feed the shallow plume and drive contaminant exposure to human health and the environment. However, these site of upwelling would be prime locations for pump and treat wells along the plume to expedite cleanup.
· Regulators should require pump and treat systems along the plume and evaluate upwelling sites as potential strategic locations.
13. Report admits more downgradient migration of VOCs is occurring but more clarity and information is needed.
We appreciate that the report acknowledges what is obvious—the plumes are migrating into new areas. However, we would suggest that statement that certain wells have half-life rates that cannot be calculated because a “consistent downward concentration trend at those locations has not yet been established”be revised to state why those downward trends have not been established. It is because they are increasing as the plume passes through them! Finally, the conclusions on page 50 should be revised to note which wells have increased to historic highs, those that have not significantly decreased in 17 years, and their locations. Because the plumes are moving south and widening out, it is not reasonable to expect that there would be a 1:1 reading of VOCs from one end of the mile long plume to the other. As the plume moves east, south, and west, the pollution spreads out over a wider area contaminating previously uncontaminated areas.
· Regulators should seek revisions to the report.
· Regulators should reject the claim that the plumes have been adequately contained and should require additional action.
· Regulators should requires a map that shows all exceedances of MCLs from RAP Table 5-1 for all chemicals on the same list.
14.Human and Ecological Health Risk Assessment must be redone to reflect new conditions, standards, and future proposals.
We repeat our request that the HRA be redone to reflect all new information, site conceptual models, weather and other conditions, standards and listings, and future proposals. We have many disagreements with how the assumptions have been made regarding the exposure. We expect to submit additional comments on this issue.
We also request to understand the current status on what levels are relevant and if new data has been used. As one example, in the RAP Table 5-1 the MCL for vinyl chloride is listed as 5 ug/l however in the EPA Technical Fact sheet for vinyl chloride it is listed as 2 ug/l. Additional issues such as the 1,4-Dioxane issue, have been raised above. If it does not already, the report needs to incorporate the 25 new US EPA IRIS toxicity values for trichloroethylene (September 28, 2011). The latest assessment characterizes the chemical as carcinogenic to humans and as a human non-cancer health hazard and TCE was added to Prop 65 effective January 31, 2014, known to the State of California to cause reproductive toxicity.
Last, the HRA and site model that have been done to date reflect current land use patterns. However, a new Senior Housing Center is under construction, the City is considering a large development on the Homeland/Oak Creek site, and other proposed projects are proceeding that will alter current conditions, change water flows, infrastructure, exposure routes, and use patterns. With development encroaching on the Chatham plumes and site, the HBCLs should also be reconsidered to assess if they are protective of water quality and future uses.
· The HRA should be redone to reflect current and future conditions and reevaluate the adopted cleanup levels.
· HBCLs should be re-evaluated against future conditions.
· Regulators should require information to be developed regarding how changed land uses will impact pollution in the groundwater and surface water and how such impacts will be prevented. New development in this area and new well installation should be prohibited until this is known.
15. Use of impacted wells should cease until treatment is installed.
The report notes our sad news that our friend and neighbor Yolanda Fleet passed away this year. We are all extremely saddened by her passing. The report states that the PRP Group is in discussions with her estate, however it does not state whether the well will be in use during this discussion time although it is well documented that it is contaminated.
· Regulators should not allow this or any impacted well to continue to be used without wellhead treatment.
· Regulators should require well-owners to be compensated for the loss of the use of their groundwater.
16. Regulators should direct a plan to address other analytes in surface water as a separate action if not related to Chatham.
The reported high levels of TDS, Total coliform, and turbidity are stated to be unrelated to the Chatham pollution. If so, the County must immediately develop a response to address these contaminants as they are in violation of the water standards and protected beneficial uses. However, the presence of these contaminants neither mitigates nor negates the seriousness of the presence of Chatham contaminants in the creek.
· We request that Felicita Creek be added as a High-Priority water quality issue in the Water Quality Improvement Plan for San Dieguito Watershed and establish an action plan to address both Chatham and non-Chatham issue in the creek.
· We request the County do the necessary five testing eventsto establish the coliform levels as outlined in Water Board protocol.
17.Please respond to these questions from our members and request for additional information about the program.
a. We understand that the PRP Group developed SWRBTLs. Are they peer-reviewed and established in the regulations? Is it accurate that DTSC would not require any notification or action until they are exceeded? Why wouldn’t the effluent limitations for groundwater discharges under the Waste Discharge Requirements of 2.7 ug/l be applicable here? Would a discharge of TCE at 1,600 ug/l into Felicita Creek be acceptable to the regulatory agencies? Would 340,000 ug/l of 1,4, Dioxane?
b. Why has the monitoring of MW-3-E2 (Iki) not been sampled in 2013 or 2014. When did this sampling stop? It used to be every 4 months. Then, last year the owner was notified that it would now be sampled once every 6 months, however, the latest April 2014 report shows NS for both 2013 and 2014. Well owners have been on record since 1997 requesting testing and never asked that it be removed.
c. If the treatment is working so well, why are water table wells near the site MW-62 and MW-64 still at historical highs or the high end of measurement after 17 years of treatment?
d. Why is BTEX analyzed for the industrial water discharge but not analyzed in the groundwater monitoring program? According to the record, benzene, methylene chloride, toluene, xylene, and other contaminants were found at the Chatham site in the groundwater.
e. Why is FC-3 (Duck Pond) not regularly monitored as part of the surface water and groundwater programs?
f. The report notes that these results are reflective of the unusually dry winter of 2013-2014. Will more flows carry contamination further downstream? What will this mean for the area of upwelling of the deep VOC plumes?
g. What does “gaining stream’ mean?
h. If actual breakdown of TCE and PCE was really occurring, wouldn’t we see higher levels of cis-1,2-DCE (a breakdown product)and decreasing levels of VOCs?
i. How do they decide which well to place on the cross section maps?
j. What is the ‘separate source’ of VOCs mentioned on page 31? Who is responsible for remediation of that contamination?
k. Would regulators allow an industry to discharge the volume of water present in Felicita Creek with the contaminant load documented in 2014 into a drinking water body?
18. Not contaminating MWs-68 and 75 is not the measure of success.
Repeatedly in the report, it notes that contamination has not yet reached MW-68 and75(the first wells south of Via Rancho Parkway) as an apparent means to reassure. We, of course, hope it never makes it to MW-68/75 but, given history, we need to know what the plan is when it makes it there. We do appreciate that there is good news that the pump and treat on the Barrel Yard itself appears to have been somewhat successful in addressing pollution on the Yard. What has not worked as well is containing the groundwater plumes as required in the RAOs.
· The RAP environmental analysis evaluated additional measures such as Alternative #GS-5: Pump and Treat Along the Length of the Plume. Regulators should require this alternative be pursued now.
19.Please improve the access to information and documentation
Unrelated to the content of this report, we request that the access and distribution of information be improved. We only received a copy of the CD because one of our members received one and shared it, but others who have requested information did not receive a copy.
· Several of the important documents on ENVIROSTOR such as Community Relations Plan, Imminent Endangerment Order, and the Remedial Action Plan are missing pages. We request that these be reposted in complete form and all documents be complete when posted.
· We know that a full set of records is maintained at the library however, given the state of technology, we request that the PRPs and regulators create an interested persons list and send all documents to that list as well as maintain the hard-copy files.
· We request that the regulators create one website or one-stop-shop where all the documents can be found in an easily searchable manner. As it stands now, both Envirostor and Geotracker are somewhat difficult to navigate and contain different documents so piecing together what is happening is very difficult.
In closing, we can’t help but be somewhat haunted by Yolanda Fleet’s statements on the record in July 17, 1997 when she said,
“My well, I’ve been told, will be the next one to be contaminated. I don’t want a contaminated well. I have a habitat that I want to be kept clean in there. I really prize that water that goes down through my property, it means a lot to me, and so I am really concerned. When are you going to stop this thing from going south?”
Seventeen years later, Yolanda Fleet’s well is now contaminated. The remedy has failed to contain the Chatham groundwater contamination.
Something more must be done.
For Escondido Neighbors United
Mr. Steve MacDonald, PRP Group
Mr. Jay Petrek, City of Escondido
Supervisor Dave Roberts, County of San Diego