Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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Site Background

The Lorentz Barrel & Drum Co. site is located at the intersection of Alma Avenue and 10th Street in San Jose, California. A waste drum reconditioning and recycling facility operated on site from 1947 to 1987. Facility operations contaminated soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals. Most of the site’s cleanup has been completed. Site investigations and cleanup planning for a remaining source area of contamination are ongoing.

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Stay Informed and Involved

EPA encourages any questions to be directed to the Community Involvement Coordinator whose contact information is listed below:

Heather Parker, Community Involvement Coordinator


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EPA’s Involvement at this Site

The Lorentz family began a drum recycling operation on a 6.72-acre part of a 10.5-acre Lorentz Barrel & Drum Co. property in 1947. During the early years of operation, parts of the property were sold or leased to other companies. Eventually, the size of the site was reduced to a 5.25-acre parcel. The site received over two million drums from more than 3,000 parties in connection with the recycling business operations until it was closed by a court action brought by the California Department of Health Services (DHS) in July 1987.

The facility received drums that contained aqueous wastes, organic solvents, acids, oxidizers and waste oils. Drums were reconditioned through a variety of methods, including caustic and acid washing, incineration, blasting with steel shot, and steam cleaning. Residues and cleaning materials were dumped into sumps and basins on site, which then drained to a storm sewer. The reconditioned drums were resealed and repainted with substances such as phenolic epoxy resins, rust inhibitors and lead-based paints. The drums were either returned to the original owner or sold.

In 1968, a San Jose industrial waste inspector found hazardous substances in Coyote Creek, which is less than half a mile to the north of the site. The inspector discovered that the source was the Lorentz Barrel and Drum facility ("the Lorentz facility"). In response to the waste inspector's concerns, the Lorentz facility owner temporarily redirected the untreated recycling waste discharge from the storm sewer to on-site basins and sumps.

Between 1980 and 1985, several state agencies issued numerous violations against the facility owner for the inappropriate handling and storing of hazardous substances, as well as for releases into the storm sewer. In 1985, the Department of Health Services (DHS) cited the Lorentz facility with 14 violations of the California Administrative Code and Federal Regulations concerning the inappropriate handling and storage of hazardous wastes. The Santa Clara County Attorney obtained a Temporary Restraining Order to close down operations at the Lorentz facility, and the Lorentz facility was permanently closed in July 1987. EPA placed the site on the NPL in 1989.

The site and adjacent properties are zoned for commercial and industrial use. Residential housing is also located within a one-mile radius of the site. Adjacent properties to the south and to the east are used for industrial activities. Properties to the north and west are the San Jose State University sports fields. Single-family housing is located further north and northeast, about 1,100 feet from the site.

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Site Status

To date, EPA has prevented or limited human exposure at the site through the capping of the contaminated soil and the containment transect of extraction wells. Most of the cleanup at the site has been completed. There is a small amount of contamination remaining in the clay aquitard that is back diffusing and contaminating the groundwater. After this source area is remediated, it may take some time to treat the existing groundwater plume. When this remedial action is completed, the site should be fully remediated and ready for closeout.

To address this source area, a Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) started in September 2011. This is a collaborative effort between EPA and the Lorentz Shallow Groundwater Task Force (LSGTF), whose members are potentially responsible parties (PRPs). The purpose of the FFS is to evaluate existing soil and groundwater remedies and other remedial options to determine the best technical approach to effectively and efficiently achieve all cleanup goals within a reasonable restoration period.

FFS data collection has consisted of soil and groundwater sampling to close existing data gaps, groundwater sampling to determine the extent of the groundwater plume, and soil gas sampling as part of an investigation of potential for vapor intrusion. This information, along with data from a tracer dilution test, is being used to develop a model of the groundwater flow underlying the site. In turn, this model will be used to generate a soil cleanup level that will be protective of groundwater.

When the FFS is completed, likely in December 2015, new soil and groundwater remedies will be selected. The next steps will then be to design and implement the remedies. These two steps have a tentative completion date of 2018.

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Work to Protect Human Health and the Environment

The site is being addressed through federal, state and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.

EPA has prevented or limited human exposure at the site through the capping of the contaminated soil and the containment transect of extraction wells. With the completion of the FFS, EPA will have selected a remedy for remaining contamination on site. When this remedial action is completed, the site should be fully remediated and ready for closeout.

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Site Risks

There is very little risk of human exposure at the site. All contaminated soils are located beneath an asphalt cap that is surrounded by fencing. Groundwater contamination is limited to the B-Zone, which is not used for drinking water in the South Bay area. There could be a risk of vapor intrusion if the contaminated groundwater were to bypass the extraction network and migrate downgradient into the residential neighborhood. All annual groundwater sampling indicates this has not occurred.

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Institutional Controls

1,1-Dicholoroethane,1,2-Dicholoroethane, 1,1-Dichloroethylene, cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene, Trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene, Perchloroethylene, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, Trichloroethylene, Vinyl Chloride, 1,4-Dioxane

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The 7-acre Lorentz Barrel & Drum Co. Superfund site is located in San Jose, California. The site includes a former drum recycling facility that operated from 1947 until its closing in 1987. During that time, the facility accepted over 2 million drums. The facility emptied, cleaned, resealed, repainted and resold the used drums, which typically contained residues of solvents, acids and caustic chemicals. Contamination of soils, groundwater and a nearby creek resulted from the improper handling of wastes in the drums as well as waste generated during the recycling process. EPA added the site to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989. Cleanup activities have included excavating and removing remaining drums and contaminated soils, installing a cap over the property, and installing a groundwater treatment and monitoring system. Property owners routinely inspect and maintain the cap. Groundwater treatment continues. Numerous auto dealers use a large portion of the site for fenced parking. A paper recycling company, Caraustar Industries, operates on the remaining portion of the site.

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