WRE/Colortech Site in Berkeley

  • Executive  Officer's report, July 11, 2001
    San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board

WRE/Colortech Site in Berkeley (Betty Graham)

At the June Board meeting, Mr. L A. Wood addressed the Board during the public forum to voice several concerns about the WRE/Colortech site at 1223 Sixth Street in Berkeley. He had three main points:

(1) the site is inappropriate for a "containment zone" or closure;
(2) the Board and the City should provide better public notice of groundwater contamination - here and elsewhere; and
(3) the Board should provide better public access to its files. As explained below, we are satisfied with the City's oversight of this cue, and we do not recommend any changes at this time.

WRE/Colortech has an active plating and engraving facility in northwestern Berkeley.

On-site releases occurred, and shallow groundwater beneath the site and in the down gradient off-site area is contaminated with chromium VI Extensive remediation of the source area occurred in the early 1990s. The City provides regulatory oversight for the site. In 1998, the City approved a "monitored natural attenuation" remediation strategy for the off-site chromium VI plume, based on apparently stable contaminant levels and no current or likely future use of shallow groundwater in this area.

In November 2000, the City discovered elevated levels of chromium VI in its groundwater dewatering discharge for the newly constructed Harrison Street skate park (as reported to you in the January 2001 EO Report). The skate park is located about three blocks west of the WRE/Colortech site, the presumed source of groundwater contamination beneath the skate park. The discovery of elevated levels of chromium

VI in groundwater beneath the skate park received same press coverage. In January 2001 the City issued a public notice to advise the west Berkeley community of the presence of chromium VI contaminated groundwater and sources of information on the public health risks and toxicity of chromium VI. The City required WP.E/Colortech to conduct further investigation and is re-evaluating its decision to approve a "monitored natural attenuation" remediation strategy for the site.

We have the following responses to Mr. Wood's three main points (above):

(1) Neither the City nor the Regions] Board has designated the WRE/Colortech site as a "containment zone" and neither agency has considered the site for closure. We are satisfied with the City's oversight of the case and have no plans to take over the case.

(2) Public notification of groundwater contamination is important and should be tailored to the facts of each case. For highthreat cases (e.g. federal Superfund sites), we do this by circulating Tentative Orders, preparing fact sheets. holding community meetings, and holding public hearings prior to Board action For lower-threat cases, we typically provide much less public notice. Local oversight agencies, such as the City of Berkeley, also tailor public notice depending on case severity and anticipated public interest.

(3) Our files on the WRP/Colortech case were made available to Mr. Wood. However, we don't maintain complete flies on non-lead cases (oases overseen another agency) and we don't have any files on "non-cases" (,properties such as the Berkeley skate park that have been affected by an up gradient source).

Note: The City of Berkeley did distribute a "Chrome 6" public health notice to part of Oceanview
Berkeley Citizen

To: L A Wood, December 12, 2000
From: San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board

Re: File No. 01S0241 (BG)

Dear Mr. Wood:
Thank you for your letter of November 20, 2000, which expressed your concerns with respect to the Harrison Street Park and the City of Berkeley's regulatory role for the investigation and cleanup of chromium contaminated groundwater emanating from the WRE/ColorTech site at 1225 Sixth Street.

As I have explained to the City of Berkeley, I do not find a conflict of interest between its regulatory role for the WRE/ColorTech site and its status as an impacted down gradient property owner. The City has assured me that it intends to promptly require additional investigation and feasibility analyses for the WRE/ColorTech site in order to better characterize the extent of contamination and how that contamination can best be remediated within a reasonable time period.

The Board has not designated a Containment Zone for the WRE/ColorTech site. The Board transferred regulatory oversight authority to the City in 1998 and the City subsequently approved a monitored natural attenuation strategy for the site. I do not find it necessary for the Regional Board to seek regulatory oversight authority for the WRE/ColorTech site at this time (see attached letter).

Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention.
Loretta K. Barsamian
Executive Officer

To: Berkeley Toxic Management Division, December 12. 2000
From: San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board

Re: WRE/ColorTech site at 1225 Sixth Street, Berkeley, Alameda County, File No. 01S0241 (BG)

Dear Mr. Al-Hadithy:
This letter confirms the City of Berkeley's designation as lead regulatory agency for the investigation and remediation of soil and groundwater contamination associated with the WRE/ColorTech site located at 1225 Sixth Street. Because the City has indicated that it will promptly require WRE/ColorTech to complete additional site investigation and feasibility analysis for remediation of the groundwater plume, I will not recommend that the Board seek lead agency designation at this time.

Investigations of soil and groundwater contamination at this site began in 1990. Remedial actions were undertaken in 1992 and 1995 to remove sumps and underground storage tanks which had contained chromate process wastewater. Regulatory oversight authority was transferred from the Board to the City of Berkeley in 1998. By letter dated August 11, 1998, the City concurred with WRE/ColorTech's recommendations for remediation by monitored natural attenuation.

Since monitored natural attenuation was accepted as a remedial strategy for this site, elevated levels of chromium VI have been detected at the Tuttle Galvinizing site, 725 Gilman Street, and at the Harrison Street Park (under construction). In addition, other site investigations in the vicinity of WRE/ColorTech have shown the localized effects of the Gilman Street storm drain on the direction and gradient of groundwater flow. The WRE/ColorTech monitoring data has not demonstrated plume stability or the reductive degradation of chromium VI to chromium III and the monitoring network has not been sufficient to define the plume boundaries.

As discussed in a November 16, 2000, meeting involving representatives of the Regional Board, City, WRE/ColorTech and Stellar Environmental, WRE/ColorTech's consultant, the City confirmed its intent to require additional investigation and feasibility analysis for this site. This work is needed to better define the lateral and vertical extent of the groundwater plume, to investigate the potential effect of subsurface features such as the Gilman Street storm drain or the Cordinices Creek channel on plume geometry, to compare passive monitored natural attenuation with active remediation technologies and to set reasonable time frames for achieving cleanup goals.

I concur with the City's proposed actions and support its continued role as lead regulatory agency for the investigation and cleanup of contaminated groundwater from the WRE/ColorTech site. Based on information currently available to Board staff and provided the City proceeds in a timely fashion, the Board will not seek lead regulatory authority.

On a related point, please advise us of the steps you are taking to manage any human health or ecological health risks due to the presence of chromium contaminated groundwater and to manage the dewatering discharge from the Harrison Street Park. At a minimum, a risk assessment is needed to characterize the potential exposures for park workers and users. If you intend a direct discharge to surface waters, an individual NPDES permit would be necessary.

If you have any questions, please contact Betty Graham of my staff.
Loretta K. Barsamian
Executive Officer

Re:  Alleged Regulatory Conflict of Interest
City of Berkeley, Office of the Attorney, December 11, 2000

Dear Mr. Wood:

This office has been directed to respond to your recent letter to Loretta Barsamian of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) concerning the City of Berkeley's role with respect to monitoring and remediation of the groundwater plume containing hexavalent chromium, which impinges on the City's skate park at Fifth and Harrison Streets.

You have requested the RWQCB to assume direct control over the remediation of the plume both on the site from which it originates (1225 Sixth Street) and on downgradient sites (including the City's skate park).

The City, through its Toxics Management Division (TMD) has been in regular and close contact with the RWQCB and other agencies with respect to the plume and appropriate remedial actions. The City and RWQCB have to date fully agreed on the steps that have been taken, and the City intends to continue to work closely with the RWQCB and other affected agencies with respect to future steps.

With respect to your concern that the City somehow has a "conflict of interest" in this matter, we have attached correspondence from the RWQCB that addresses the issue. In summary, the RWQCB determined that there is no such "conflict of interest". This is consistent with the principle (and practice) under which the City routinely is required to act in both its proprietary and regulatory functions. Our independent review of the relevant statutes has led this office to the same conclusion.

Manuela Albuqeruque, City Attorney

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