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Case Summary: $22 Million Cleanup Settlement for Cooper Drum Superfund Site in California

On December 29, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice announced that a group of 40 parties agreed to conduct the cleanup of the Cooper Drum Superfund site in South Gate, 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, Calif. The settlement requires an estimated $15 million to construct the additional groundwater treatment system needed, including wells, piping and treatment costs, plus $7 million to reimburse EPA for its past cleanup actions at the site.

Southern California’s I-710 freeway passes through 15 cities and unincorporated areas including South Gate, where the effects of pollution are disproportionately higher than in other areas of Los Angeles County. Approximately one million people, about 70% of whom are minority and low-income households, are severely impacted by industrial activities and goods movement in the area. In a multi-year effort, federal, state, and local governments and nonprofit organizations are working together to improve the environmental and public health conditions for residents along this corridor.

The parties to the cleanup agreement are former customers of the drum reconditioning business, the activities of which led to the contamination at the site.

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Information about the Cooper Drum Superfund Site

Cooper Drum is a 3.8-acre site located in a commercial, industrial and residential area of South Gate, Calif. From 1974 until its closure in 1992, the Cooper Drum Company reconditioned used steel drums from industrial customers, such as chemical manufacturers, chemical packagers and oil companies. The 55-gallon steel drums, which contained residual oils and solvents, were washed and prepared for reuse. Residual wastes from the drums, primarily volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene (TCE), spilled and leaked on the site, contaminating soils and groundwater. Cooper Drum was placed on Superfund’s National Priorities List in 2001.

More information is available on the Cooper Drum Superfund site profile sheet.

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Information on pollutants and environmental effects

The site is contaminated with TCE, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and petroleum hydrocarbons. Drinking high levels of TCE may cause damage to the nervous system, liver and lungs. PCBs is a probable human carcinogen and may cause a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. Long term exposure to lead can lead to kidney problems or high blood pressure.

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Summary of the consent decree

The parties to this consent decree had been performing soil and groundwater work under a 2009 unilateral administrative order. By signing on to the consent decree, the parties are agreeing to reimburse EPA for $7 million in past cleanup costs and perform the final phase of work for the site for known conditions based on the cleanup selected in the September 2002 Record of Decision.

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Contact information

For more information, contact

Jim Collins
Assistant Regional Counsel
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

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