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EPA recruits private partners for Mountain View Superfund cleanup

 

As land values surpass $10 million an acre in some areas of Mountain View, polluted sites that previously would have never been considered for development are looking quite enticing.

Federal regulators say they are finding ways to encourage private developers to swiftly clean up and restore land within the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman (MEW) Superfund site. At a press conference on Monday morning, Sept. 9, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency highlighted Mountain View as a success story for their ability to harness the regional demand for land to help clean up the area’s longstanding groundwater contamination.

For nearly two years, the EPA under the Trump Administration has made a concerted push to refocus the Superfund cleanup program on speedily bringing polluted sites back to productive use. A pillar of this strategy is encouraging private partners who can help pay for remediation of polluted sites, said Susan Bodine, an EPA assistant administrator.

“Mountain View is one of the many places across the country where by working with local government and private sector partners we’ve successful promoted redevelopment and community revitalization,” Bodine said. “Leveraging private investment can offer a faster path to bring these sites to reuse.”

As a poster child for this growing reliance on private partners, EPA officials pointed to a Mountain View residential development at 277 Fairchild Drive. The 26-unit housing project is located just south of Highway 101, right on the MEW toxic plume, where vast amounts of industrial solvents like TCE , a known carcinogen, were dumped decades ago by semiconductor factories. While the contaminated groundwater isn't part of Mountain View's drinking water supply, its toxic vapors can seep into buildings where they can concentrate to unsafe levels.

To move the project along without further delay, EPA officials signed an agreement known as a “Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser” deal to help provide legal cover for the developer, Warmington Fairchild Associates. In basic terms, so long as Warmington took a number of good-faith steps to clean and mitigate the toxic hazards, the company would be shielded from liability for building on the Superfund plume.

A similar Bona Fide agreement has reportedly been secured by Google’s subsidiary Planetary Ventures as the company begins a $157 million effort to restore Hangar One at Moffett Field. EPA officials say they also expect to strike a similar deal with NASA Ames on its plans to build nearly 2,000 new homes on Moffett Field’s southern side.

The EPA has sanctioned a number of steps to mitigate the TCE contamination. For years, the companies charged with cleaning up the mess have focused their efforts on pumping and treating the groundwater. More recently, EPA has supported alternate tools, such as special microbes or bio-augmented trees that can filter out hazardous compounds.

The EPA has been highlighting its successful partnerships to clean up sites across the U.S. to mark the release this month of its final strategy plan for Superfund sites. The Mountain View press conference on Monday was reportedly one of 10 similar events scheduled across the country.

Under the Trump administration, the EPA has promoted its ability to quickly “de-list” Superfund sites, essentially declaring that all the necessary cleanup is complete. In 2018, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler touted that he was closing the books on 22 sites, the highest number in recent memory. EPA officials are forecasting they will de-list at least 22 more sites in 2019.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration has routinely targeted the EPA for the deepest cuts across federal agencies. For the upcoming fiscal year, the environmental watchdog is once again at risk of losing 31 percent of its funding.

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Comments

11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2019 at 2:29 pm

These toxic waste sites date back to when? The 1960s and 1970s? I am shocked that the city has allowed landowners to develop these properties despite the huge health problem. I hope the Trump administration is serious about actually cleaning up the pollution instead of just covering it up.


9 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

Most of the major toxic sites in Mountain View, including the three Superfund sites that make up the MEW Superfund Study Area, were first identified in the early 1980s. EPA has been working since the mid-1980s with the city, state agencies, environmental activists, and the electronics companies responsible for most of the pollution to conduct cleanup. The bulk of the contamination has been removed, but it is extremely difficult to totally eliminate what remains.

The contamination along Evandale and Fairchild was found about 5 or 6 years ago. EPA research shows that the TCE was released from a sewage line leading from the industrial area. That connection was eliminated in 1966.

When the old motel on Fairchild was demolished, sampling showed higher concentrations of TCE in the subsurface than expected. EPA mandated additional cleanup before construction. The original polluters did not agree to cleanup made necessary by development, so EPA established an agreement with the housing developer. The developer conducted and paid for soil vapor extraction and in situ bioremediation to further knock down subsurface contamination.

However, because some contamination is likely to remain, EPA and the city of Mountain View have required subslab depressurization systems, similar to radon systems, to prevent toxic gases from entering the buildings. Such systems are found on many building in Mountain View.

Thus, a partnership among EPA, the city, and business has allowed the safe redevelopment of contaminated property. Because Mountain View needs housing near our centers of employment, this is a significant achievement.

It also serves as a national model. Mountain View leads the nation in the safe reuse - commercial properties and housing - of contaminated property.


8 people like this
Posted by EPA
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Sep 9, 2019 at 9:30 pm

If the Trump EPA says that MEW is all cleaned up then it must be true.


1 person likes this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 10, 2019 at 7:13 am

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

EPA is not saying that the MEW Superfund area is all cleaned up. EPA is working on a study to replace or augment the old pump-and-treat systems with innovating technologies throughout much of the plume. My organization (www.cpeo.org) has a continuing technical assistance grant from EPA to oversee that and other MEW activities. If you want to stay informed, contact me at LSiegel@cpeo.org.


Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2019 at 8:43 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

Lenny:

In effect, the soil is NOT clean.

And the development that has occured has used "vapor intrusion control" to avoid TCE vapors from getting into the offices and homes built in the city.

THe fact is that practically the clean up has not occured, only "pollution control" regarding interior airspace has been used.

THe Ambient air is NOT monitored. Both the EPA and the CARB have avoided doing this kind of valley wide air quality monitoring.

Just a reminder, my father was an EXPERT in ambient air monitoring devices and practices working for the Pollution research and Control Coprporation a subsidiary of Dasibi Environmental Corp.

I worked with him on mulitple state air quality programs, and projects involving the EPA.

The fact is that the EPA nor the CARB can actually provide real scientific data about the air quality in the entire valley.

WHERE is the proof that this situation is improving?


Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 9:57 am

The Business Man is a registered user.

Lenny?

Please tell us that you have the land is being cleaned?

Please tell us that you have proof that the air is clean?


2 people like this
Posted by more funny business
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 11:37 am


I would like to know where Lenny stands. Is he part of the OMV and Livable Mountain View lobbying/coalition efforts to stop all development in Mountain View, and whether he supports the contaminated soil underneath the Tied House by effectively denying/blocking the redevelopment of these 2 properties. There is an opportunity for soil clean up and new density on under utilized properties in the downtown district.

Seems like a win-win. Why would OMV or Livable Mountain View try to stop a toxic soil clean up and provide a new mixed use development in OMV? Simple answer-a return to yesterday.

These two action lobby's have decided to throw the "historic card" on the Tied House (former dry cleaning facility with contaminated soil) and Chez TJ (use to be a significant property until the city gave the okay years ago to remove the bedrooms and install a commercial kitchen). OMV and Livable Mountain View want to stop all development regardless of the local soil contamination downtown and are attempting to usurp property rights because they would much prefer to park in front of their homes without restriction. The only goal of OMV and Livable Mountain View is parking restrictions and free parking permits for themselves.

Apparently contaminated soil downtown is perfectly okay and taking property rights from property owners is the right thing to do versus a development project that ensures a toxic clean up and new opportunities for the city of Mountain View.

The more you know.....






Like this comment
Posted by more funny business
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Where is TBM/Stephen when I need him?


Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 5:23 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to more funny business you did say:

“Apparently contaminated soil downtown is perfectly okay and taking property rights from property owners is the right thing to do versus a development project that ensures a toxic clean up and new opportunities for the city of Mountain View.”

I understand the frustration. But the idea of “property rights” was the foundation of the catastrophic situation that Mountain View faces today.

The “property owners” of so many companies dumped so much pollution into the soil that it “creeped” outside the property “they owned” and became a public land problem.

I lived through this in my home town back in Massachusetts. Dow Chemical dumped toxins onto their “private property” which eventually spread to miles around.

The idea that “property rights from property owners” is simply NOT REAL. Unless you will segment the soil for all “private property” as much as a mile below the surface to prevent pollutants dumped on their land from spreading. The same goes for airborne pollutants.

Just understand this fact, if there is absolute private property rights regarding private owners, than there can be NO property taxes. You cannot tax another person’s exclusive property. But it is a simple fact that all property is taxed except for Public Property and perhaps Religious Owned Land. That in effect means that the “private owners” do NOT have exclusive ownership of the land. Their land is in fact still publically owned and the “private owner” pays a rent to operate on it.

So we have clearly a mistake in the belief that private land actually exists. What private property rights believers need to do is amend the U.S. Constitution and the states Constitutions so that “property taxes” are prohibited to ESTABLISH the there is such thing as “private property rights”.

I still need proof that the land and ir is NOT polluted from someone who actually properly sutudies this situation.


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