As a resident of the City of Long Beach, I have been following the recent developments of the land swap between the City of Long Beach and Tom Dean. The proposed deal is some city owned land on the West Side of the city for the Los Cerritos Wetlands on the East Side of the city. At first blush, this sounds like a pretty good deal where the owner of the wetlands gets some land he could develop and the city gets some open space that they can preserve for their citizens, but the devil is always in the details.
It seems there is soil impacted with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) at the wetland site that is confusing the issue, along with other potential roadblocks. This is not entirely surprising considering that there are electrical transformers on the wetlands property powering the oil well pumps and those transformers have likely been there long before the 1979 PCB ban.
Although no longer commercially produced in the United States, PCBs may be present in products and materials produced before 1979. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the products that may contain PCBs include Transformers and capacitors, voltage regulators, high voltage switches, electromagnets, hydraulic oil, fluorescent light ballasts, thermal insulation, oil-based paint, and some construction mastic materials.
The EPA is conducting a sampling program and will be performing a risk assessment for the wetlands that will likely include PCBs and other oil-field related compounds. This is not an uncommon process, the part that I do find uncommon is that the City of Long Beach is having this investigation performed by the EPA and that it is happening so late in the game. The EPA does good work and has some very good scientists and engineers at their disposal, but they are a governmental agency and move at the pace that you would expect a governmental agency to move. A private consulting firm would be able to conduct the sampling and risk assessment that the EPA is doing in far less time. This timing is becoming a factor as the property owner has only given the City of Long Beach until the end of the calendar year (December 31st) to make a decision, and I can almost guarantee that the EPA will not have their investigation completed at that time, let alone the reporting on the investigation or the risk assessment.
I wish the best of luck to the City of Long Beach and the property owner but this deal sounds like it is beginning to sour. As a citizen of the City of Long Beach, I am hoping I can assist the city in this manner but so far they haven’t taken me up on my offer. Strange, seeing as how they are turning down free consulting but that is their prerogative.