Eshoo opens inquiry into Silicon Valley toxic cleanup

Sites included are in Mountain View and Palo Alto

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, has opened an inquiry with the Environmental Protection Agency into shortfalls in the federal government's Superfund toxic cleanup program, including sites it operates in Mountain View and Palo Alto.

Eshoo made the inquiry after a report by the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting and The Guardian exposed details of associated pollution that is created by treatment and transportation of toxic pollutants from Superfund sites. The report followed a toxic trail from a site in Mountain View across the country and back to Silicon Valley.

The Voice also published a series of stories on the issue in 2003, when community members first began to discuss the environmental consequences for an Indian reservation in Arizona. That was where carbon filters used to clean contaminated groundwater at Mountain View Superfund sites were being burned, emitting dioxin into the air, affecting Native American residents there.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are 21 Superfund sites located in Silicon Valley, with 11 in Eshoo's 18th Congressional District, including eight in Mountain View and one at the former Hewlett-Packard site at 620-640 Page Mill Road in Palo Alto.

In a March 28 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Eshoo asked for more information regarding the extent to which the agency monitors the interstate transport and treatment of the hazardous waste, alternative cleanup methods and if the agency has adequate regulatory authority to monitor and control toxic materials after removal from Superfund sites.

"What I'm concerned about is that the Environmental Protection Agency is failing to properly monitor and regulate the emissions associated with remediating the toxic pollutants recovered from Superfund sites," Eshoo wrote.

"Of particular concern are the emissions of dioxin, which is on the EPA's 'Dirty Dozen' list of dangerous chemicals and is a known carcinogen. The carbon emissions associated with collecting, transporting and treating hazardous waste from Superfund sites are deeply troubling. I also understand that in some cases the traditional 'pump and treat' method for decontaminating groundwater may not be as effective as alternative treatment methods," she wrote. The Hewlett-Packard site uses pump-and-treat methods.

When residents of Mountain View first discussed the issue 11 years ago they worked with the EPA to fix the problem.

"Though I was among the community members who raised the issue of carbon 'regeneration' a decade ago, I believe it's important to put it into perspective," said Lenny Siegel, director of Mountain View's Center for Public Environmental Oversight, in an email. "I believe that Superfund cleanups represent a small portion of the carbon filters thermally treated in the U.S., and carbon filter disposal represents a small portion of the waste shipped from Superfund sites."

"The transfer of waste from one medium to another is one of the reasons we have been promoting in-situ treatment at MEW and Moffett Field (Mountain View's major Superfund sites), and we believe the adoption of new remedies here may serve as a national model," Siegel said.

Alternatives to carbon filtering of contaminated groundwater include the injection of special bacteria into the water table to break down toxics.

"But it's an area where we all need to tread carefully," he said. "Federal and private responsible parties are looking for excuses to reduce cleanup activity, and no active cleanup (monitored natural attenuation) generates less waste and costs less than both conventional remedies (pump and treat) and in-situ treatment."

A map of all Silicon Valley Superfund sites can be found at

The sites in Palo Alto and Mountain View include:

- Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto

- Spectra-Physics, Inc., Mountain View

- Teledyne Semiconductor, Mountain View

- CTS Printex, Inc., Mountain View

- Jasco Chemical Corp., Mountain View

- Moffett Naval Air Station, Mountain View

- Fairchild Semiconductor, Mountain View

- Raytheon Corp., Mountain View

- Intel Corp., Mountain View

Voice reporter Daniel DeBolt contributed to this story.


Like this comment
Posted by homeowner
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2014 at 11:11 am

There goes our property values. We were waiting for the Googlers to push our home price up to $2 million before taking the money and retiring. Like our city government, we are happy to cover up the toxic waste problem and just let property values soar. Now thanks to Eshoo, we may never be able to retire. Young Googlers don't want to buy contaminated homes that will cause birth defects in their children. Shame on those lefty whistleblowers for stealing my money.

Like this comment
Posted by Cordelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2014 at 3:03 pm

We need other people to be interviewed besides Lenny Siegel. Often, his statements are a no-op and add little to the discussion. "Let's tread carefully." "We brought this up 10 years ago." So what? Anna Eshoo wants to look at more effective treatments. The current cleanup plan projects that Mtn View will not be cleaned up in our lifetimes. Let's look at alternatives that would fix this sooner. Why would Lenny want to get in the way of that? Has he become a paid corporate shill?

Like this comment
Posted by Lady Jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 1, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Is anyone tracking cancers and birth defects in Mountain View?

It's worth looking at.

Like this comment
Posted by jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 1, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Cordelia, You will find few, if any, people in the nation who are as qualified as Lenny to speak on this topic. He is often interviewed because he operates the Center for Environmental Oversight, and concerned citizens and those with no voice reach out to him from every state. Perhaps because he is local the Mountain View residents do not realize the scope of his aid to people all over this country when it comes to representing the impacted homeowner or the school principal in the Midwest who fights for clean air in her classroom. If you know of other people to interview that have the experience and knowledge of Lenny, then please provide their names to the Voice so that you can hear what they have to say.

Like this comment
Posted by Cordelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm

In this instance, Lenny should not be the main person consulted on this topic. Have you seen his website? Many of his donors are companies which are in charge of remediation efforts. That's clearly a conflict of interest. I don't want him in a position to defend people who are giving him money. As to who else we should consult with, I can think of a few off the top of my head: companies who are currently NOT working on the remediation effort, companies who have or are currently working on the remediation, and analysts who worked on the 2012 Mtn View cancer study.

Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 2, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Web Link
Cordelia, I do not see any donations listed that are companies in charge of remediation efforts? Where do you see that list?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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