Department of Toxic Substances Provides an Update on Former Contaminated Swarthmore Site

The land north of Swarthmore where the dry cleaner was located needed to be remediated.

In July 2004, when business in Pacific  Palisades was thriving, and a local newspaper reported, “The only advertised storefront currently available for lease in the Village is the former Emerson-LeMay site (1,600-sq.-ft.) at 1045 Swarthmore, which has been vacant since March 2003.”

As we know, the Great Recession in 2008/2009 led to declining fortunes for local retail businesses. When Rick Caruso’s company entered into a purchase agreement with Palisades Properties in 2012, inspectors discovered that workers at the former Emerson-LaMay Cleaners on Swarthmore had poured toxic material into the soil behind the building for decades.

Caruso was required to remediate the site, which was supervised by the California State Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Annually, the DTSC must ensure that the land use restrictions for this site (as of 8/9/2017) are kept. The following are prohibited uses for the north side of Swarthmore (between Sunset and Monument): 1) day-care center, 2) elder-care center, 3) a hospital, 4) residences and 5) public or private school for persons under 21.

If the property were to ever be sold, the land-use covenant would have to be released and the DTSC notified of a change of property owner.

Jump ahead to October 1, 2020, when Circling the News received the following update from DTSC. We think readers readers might like to know the following history, provided by the DTSC:

“The Pacific Palisades Village (Site) is composed of ten irregular shaped lots which include the existing retail plaza called Pacific Palisades Village, and consists of about 52,794 square feet of building area on a 2.77-acre property.

“Before 1950, the Site was undeveloped land with no structures present, with the exception of a few single-family residences. Between 1950 and 1954, the Site was developed with the existing retail structures and the surrounding area now includes single-family residential developments and commercial developments along Sunset Boulevard and Swarthmore Avenue.

In 2012, environmental investigations at the Site began as part of due diligence activities required during the consideration of real estate purchases for redevelopment. Previous investigations revealed a historic release of PCE most likely attributable to a drycleaning establishment that operated at 1045 Swarthmore Avenue from about 1968 to 2000.

“Elevated levels of PCE are present in soil, soil vapor, and groundwater beneath the Site.

DTSC is providing oversight of the investigation and cleanup of the Site under a California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act Agreement. The investigation to delineate the full nature and extent of contamination was completed in January 2014.

“A Response Plan was approved by DTSC in October 2014 and is in the process of being implemented. The remedy includes soil excavation with off-site disposal, operation of two soil vapor extraction systems and in-situ groundwater treatment.

“A Completion Report documenting the successful partial implementation of the Response Plan was approved by DTSC on September 17, 2015. While the 2015 Completion Report presented a progress report on the overall response actions taken to clean up the Site, it primarily documented the excavation and offsite disposal of VOC contaminated soil.

“Remedial excavations began on February 18, 2015 and were completed on June 26, 2015. A total of 23,203 tons of soil were disposed of as non-hazardous waste. The Completion Report included copies of non-hazardous waste manifests documenting the proper disposal of soil at disposal facilities in Simi Valley and Azusa, California.

“The soil was excavated using large diameter augers, and the resulting borings were back filled with sand/cement slurry. Based on information presented in the 2015 Completion Report, the excavation activities were effective in removing soil with PCE that exceeded the risk based cleanup level of 1,500 micrograms per kilogram (µg/kg).

“In six of the 275 borings, the bottom most confirmation samples had PCE concentrations greater than the 1,500 µg/kg cleanup level. All six borings had a maximum depth of 80 feet below grade and terminated in groundwater. The six borings were all located adjacent to each other, in an area of about 150 square feet.

“Response actions to remove residual PCE from soil vapor and groundwater were conducted from December 2014 to June 2016. The soil vapor extraction (SVE) system operated from August 2015 to March 2016 and extracted a total of 1,367 pounds of PCE.

“Soil gas data collected after a 50-day rebound test indicated that concentrations were below the risk-based target concentrations (RBCs) proposed in the Response Plan. Injections of emulsified vegetable oil (EVO) were applied in February 2015 to reduce PCE concentrations in groundwater.

“Groundwater monitoring conducted prior to and after EVO application indicated a decreasing trend in PCE concentrations to below or near the established drinking water maximum contaminant level for PCE. The reduction of PCE in groundwater is attributed to the source zone removal (soil excavation work), the SVE work and EVO groundwater injection work.

“On October 15, 2015, DTSC approved the Supplemental Soil Gas Assessment Plan (California Environmental, September 2015) to conduct soil gas sampling on the properties south of Swarthmore Avenue to determine if concentrations of PCE were above the RBCs and required cleanup. PCE concentrations were detected well below the RBCs.

“The goal of the Response Plan was to cleanup all media to levels that are protective of human health and the environment for the proposed future commercial land use.

“Based on the information provided in the Completion Report, DTSC determined that the objectives of the Response Plan for the Site were met. The properties located north of Swarthmore with Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor parcel numbers (APNs) 4423-016-019, 4423-016-020, 4423-016-021 and 4423-016-22 are suitable for commercial/industrial use, but require recording of a land use covenant (LUC) due to residual contamination above unrestricted standards, in accordance with California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Section 67391.1. The LUC was recorded on July 17, 2017.

“The property owner is required to submit annual reports certifying compliance with the terms of the LUC. The Certification for Response Actions taken under CLRRA was issued on August 07, 2017 and Site Certification was completed on August 9, 2017. The Site is listed as “Certified O&M – Land Use Restrictions Only” on Envirostor.”

Caruso was required to remediate the land before construction could start on his development.

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One Response to Department of Toxic Substances Provides an Update on Former Contaminated Swarthmore Site

  1. Nona Hale says:

    500th issue! Congratulations! First thing I read every morning. Thank you, Sue, for an interesting, informative and amusing start to my day.

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