A group of 40 companies has agreed to pay $22 million towards the cleanup of a Superfund site in South Gate, federal officials announced late Tuesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced the agreement to further clean up the 3.8-acre Cooper Drum Superfund Site at 9316 S. Atlantic Ave. The companies will pay $15 million for groundwater treatment and $7 million to reimburse the EPA for past cleanup activities.

From 1941 to 1992, the South Gate site was home to Cooper Drum Co., which reconditioned steel barrels that had contained various industrial chemicals. This involved flushing out the remaining chemicals and stripping the drums for painting and resale. The chemicals – including trichloroethene (TCE), polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) and lead – went straight into the soil, eventually leaching into local groundwater supplies. After Cooper Drum sold the property in 1992, the new owners continued reconditioning steel drums, but constructed an enclosed system to contain the chemicals. The site is now occupied by a pallet company.

The site was placed on the EPA’s Superfund priority cleanup list in 2001. Shortly after, a group formed of all the parties that had sent drums to be reconditioned at the site. The Cooper Drum Cooperating Parties Group includes Chevron USA of San Ramon, Chemical Waste Management of Houston, Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md. and Southern California Edison, a subsidiary of Edison International of Rosemead. It is this group that reached the agreement Tuesday with federal enforcement officials.

“Today’s settlement is a binding commitment to pursue the final cleanup of this former industrial site,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goal is to protect the residents of South Gate from the toxic chemicals that have contaminated their local groundwater.”

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