CASMALIA, Calif. - The federal Environmental Protection Agency has announced the final cleanup plan for the decades-old Casmalia Superfund contamination site.
EPA officials briefed the media on the final phase of the Superfund cleanup at the 252-acre site in northern Santa Barbara County on Thursday morning.
The former hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility was closed back in 1989.
"The stuff that was being put in here was pretty gnarly stuff," said new EPA District 9 Administrator Mike Stoker. "Casmalia and Kettleman City were the only two that everything and everything was disposed off and that made it much more complicated for an on-site cleanup hat we've gone through over the past 27 years."
Wednesday marked a homecoming of sorts for Stoker, who served as Santa Barbara County supervisor from 1986-1994.
His district included Casmalia. Stoker was one of the first local elected officials to ask for federal help in cleaning up the landfill.
With such a close, personal history with the site, it was only natural Stoker was the one to publicly announce what the cleanup project will entail.
The cleanup process will include removal of contaminated liquids and soils, engineered capping of waste disposal areas, design and construction of upgraded groundwater collection and treatment systems, natural breakdown of groundwater contaminants at some locations, long-term surface water management, source reduction, land use controls, and ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure onsite containment.
"This is a giant step forward to protect public health for the communities of Casmalia, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Santa Maria and Orcutt, who's tireless efforts and work with EPA throughout this process has been instrumental," Stoker said.
As part of the historic announcement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was on-hand to sign the final paperwork, which officially signals the beginning of the cleanup project.
“Over the course of the last year, EPA has taken action to accelerate remediation efforts at Superfund sites across the country, including the Casmalia Superfund site,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Adding the Casmalia site to my emphasis list of sites requiring immediate, intense action, and signing this Record of Decision, demonstrates my commitment to ensure Superfund sites are addressed as quickly and safely as possible. The final cleanup plan utilizes the most effective cleanup technologies and will ensure the Casmalia site will be addressed in a comprehensive and lasting manner.”
The cleanup project will have an initial cost of $60 million and include annual maintenance and operational costs of $4.1 million.
The EPA did not announce when the cleanup will begin. The project is expected to last at least five years.
"This is literally the final chapter," said Stoker. "This is that point where we finally see the light at the end of the road."
The EPA says the facility accepted about 5.6 billion pounds of hazardous waste between 1973 and 1989.
It was declared an EPA Superfund Cleanup site after it was determined to have contaminated soil, surface water and groundwater supplies.
The Casmalia Superfund site has been on the National Priorities Cleanup List since 2001.
After the hazardous waste facility was abandoned by the original operator, concerns about soil and groundwater contamination were raised by neighboring communities and property owners.
Check back for updates on this developing story.