PICO RIVERA – Pico Rivera has taken the first steps to remove toxic waste from six water pumping sites, which eventually will bring the city into compliance with orders from county safety officials.
Officials from the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s CalARP unit – California Accidental Release Prevention Program – had given the city two deadlines since March to remove containers of toxic fluorosilicic acid from pumping sites.
During inspections of the sites earlier this year, CalARP officials found five-year-old drums of fluorasilicic acid covered in dust, said CalArp supervisor Victor Nandiego.
The inspectors did not cite the city, but officials were given deadlines and orders to correct the problems and remove the acid, Nandiego said.
“They said they were working on it,” he said. “If they don’t comply, we’ll have to go through a whole process, beginning with an office hearing notice.”
Last week, however, the city officially deemed the acid “hazardous waste,” the first step toward disposing of the material.
Nandiego said taking that step means the city could ultimately avoid further action by his unit. Along with declaring the acid hazardous waste, the city applied for an Environmental Protection Agency number – a 10-day process required before hazardous waste can be disposed of.
Nandiego said the bureaucracy of government could slow the process by weeks or even months.
But city spokesman Bob Spencer said the city now has everything “in line” to remove the acid within a week of hearing back from the EPA.
“The view has been given that nothing’s being done, and it’s not true,” Spencer said. “We’re putting together a water master plan that will address all these kinds of improvements, especially since water systems were identified as a major risk for communities after 9/11.”
The acid drums were purchased in 2002 as part of the city’s plan to add fluoride to its drinking water supplies.
But after finding out that the annual cost of maintaining the fluoridation system would be nearly $100,000, the idea was abandoned, officials have said.
Mayor Ron Beilke blamed the previous council majority for not addressing the problems sooner. “If mistakes have been made, there are a lot of factors we can point to. But one was the lack of stability of the former council,” he said. “But we have no more excuses anymore. Now we have a city manager with a contract and a stable government. We should have the work done by September.”