Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The Cooper Drum Co. site is a 3.8-acre facility located at 9316 South Atlantic Avenue in South Gate, California. Rayo Avenue borders the site to the east and the former Tweedy Elementary School property is located directly to the south. From 1941 until 1992, Cooper Drum Co. reconditioned closed-topped steel drums that previously held industrial chemicals. The reconditioning process consisted of flushing out and stripping the drums for painting and resale. Heavy-duty cleaning called “hard washing” took place on the northeast part of the Site (the former hard wash area, or HWA), when necessary. Beginning in 1976, reconditioning activities took place at the present-day drum processing area (DPA), located on what is now the central part of the site. Fluids generated by reconditioning and hard washing activities were collected in open concrete pits and trenches. This led to the contamination of soil and groundwater beneath the site. The site’s long-term cleanup is ongoing.

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What Is Being Done to Clean Up the Site?

The site is being addressed through federal, state and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions. Currently financed by the federal Superfund program, the site is transitioning to become a PRP-funded lead site.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

EPA recently approved work plans for soil and groundwater cleanup. Construction of a soil vapor extraction (SVE) treatment system has finished; the system began operating in February 2011. Construction of the groundwater treatment system finished in September 2011. The dual-phase extraction (DPE) wells began operating in April 2012, after a wastewater discharge permit was obtained from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District. The DPE wells extract contaminated water from the perched aquifer and allow the SVE system to remove and treat the contaminated soil vapor from this perched zone. The extraction and treatment of contaminated groundwater from the aquifer beneath the site began in August 2012 from an on-site groundwater extraction well. The next step is to put in remaining extraction wells and conveyance piping off-site across Rayo Avenue in order to begin treating the contaminated groundwater plume that extends to Southern Avenue.

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EPA’s Involvement at the Site

In April 1987, the Los Angeles County Health Department (LACHD) Emergency Response Team responded to an incident at the Tweedy Elementary School property. An unknown quantity of highly caustic liquid waste had migrated via underground seepage from the Cooper Drum Co. property. The waste resulted from the caustic wash water from the drum recycling process line located in the building directly north of the school property. Initially, the waste was thought to consist mainly of sodium hydroxide and oil. When contamination migrated onto school property, the top layer of soil was excavated and the area was paved. Due to public health concerns, Tweedy Elementary School has remained closed and the property is currently used for school district administrative and maintenance functions.

By 1992, when the drum reconditioning business had been sold to Waymire Drum Company, Cooper Drum site facilities were retrofitted to provide better environmental protection. An aboveground, enclosed system for containing liquids and wastes was installed, including closed-top steel tanks and hard piping to replace the open pits, sumps and trenches. The former hard-wash area (HWA) was closed and replaced with a new HWA in the Drum Processing Area (DPA), which also provided hard piping and secondary containment. All buildings have concrete floors and the entire facility was paved with asphalt. Since 1992, drum processing operations have not resulted in any release of hazardous substances into the soil or groundwater beneath the site. Waymire Drum Company continued to operate the facility until 1996. Consolidated Drum Company was the drum-reconditioning operator at the site from 1996 until their departure in 2003. The facility was fitted to process plastic totes (large square containers) during this period. Since 2003, drum processing operations no longer occur at the site and all drum processing equipment has been removed.

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Emergency Response and Removal

Site cleanup has also included removal actions, or short-term cleanups, to address immediate threats to human health and the environment. In April 1987, contaminated soil at Tweedy Elementary School was excavated, the area was paved and the school was closed. The City of South Gate closed four municipal wells in the same year.

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