EPA finds more contaminated soil at former Halaco site

Source: http://www.vcstar.com, June 14, 2011
By: Kevin Clerici

Environmental regulators noted in their latest findings that there is contaminated soil in a drainage canal and lagoon near the shuttered Halaco metals recycling plant at Ormond Beach in Oxnard.

Like previous results from a ditch in March, the contamination levels could pose a risk to wildlife that ingest contaminated sediment and prey, but not to humans visiting the property, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which released its report last week.

The EPA performed the tests in June 2010 as part of cleanup efforts at the former metals recycling plant, which is on a national list of hazardous Superfund cleanup sites. Halaco operated an aluminum and magnesium smelter from 1965 to 2004.

Federal regulators last year suggested for the first time that it might be feasible to remove the 28-acre pile of waste, which is laden with heavy metals and trace amounts of radioactive thorium. Residents in the area have long wanted it removed.

To finalize its testing into whether the contamination levels pose any human health and ecological risks, the EPA later this month plans to collect and analyze invertebrates and fish from the coastal canal and lagoon, and conduct laboratory “toxicity tests” using contaminated sediments from the site, said Wayne Praskins, a Superfund program manager with the EPA.

The results will be used to develop a formal cleanup proposal, which will be released for public consideration and input, Praskins said.

The contaminated soil in the canal likely dates back to the late 1960s when Halaco discharged waste material into a settling pond in or adjacent to the drainage canal, built in the 1930s, the EPA said.

Sediments in portions of the lagoon were contaminated by metals, dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from Halaco’s waste materials.

The highest levels of contamination were found about 2 feet underground in the lagoon under a pedestrian footbridge at the end of Perkins Road.

Concentration levels were lower in portions of the lagoon near the ocean. Changes between 1965 and 2011 in the size and shape of the lagoon were credited for why contamination was found in some parts of the lagoon but not others, the EPA said.

The report and other information about the Halaco site can be found online at http://www.epa.gov/region09/halaco.

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