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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Romic Environmental Technologies, East Palo Alto, CA

Romic facility
Distillation towers at closed Romic facility

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Romic Environmental Technologies Corporation (or "Romic") is a former hazardous waste management facility located in East Palo Alto, California near the San Francisco Bay. In 2007, Romic management closed the facility. It ceased accepting waste as of August 3, 2007.

Romic operated the 12.6 acre facility from approximately 1964 to 2007. Historical facility operations included solvent recycling, fuel blending, wastewater treatment, and hazardous waste storage and treatment. Soil and ground water beneath the site became contaminated as a result of Romic's past operations and that of its predecessor companies dating back to the 1950s. The primary contaminants in the soil and ground water are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Typical VOCs found at Romic are solvents such as trichloroethene (TCE) which were used to clean metal parts. Ground water contamination extends across most of the site to a depth of at least 80 feet below ground surface. The ground water is salty and is not a drinking water source.

Remedy Decision for Soil and Ground Water

In July 2008, U.S. EPA made a remedy decision for clean-up of Romic's soil and ground water contamination. Enhanced biological treatment would be employed, in which a mixture of cheese whey, molasses, and water is injected into the subsurface to enhance the natural breakdown of the contaminants.

U.S. EPA selected the final remedy based on public input, new information, and analysis.

Contaminated sediments in the slough adjacent to Romic will be covered in a later action.

Clean-up Approach

The final remedy for clean-up of contamination at Romic primarily relies on enhanced biological treatment, an established ground water remediation technology that is currently in limited use at the former Romic facility. Enhanced biological treatment involves injecting a mixture of cheese whey, molasses and water into the solvent-contaminated soil and ground water to enhance the natural breakdown of the contaminants. The cheese whey and molasses mixture acts as a food source for natural microbes that live in the subsurface. These microbes break down the solvents, cheese whey, and molasses into carbon dioxide, water, and salt. Other parts of the clean-up approach include excavation and removal of contaminated soils, monitored natural attenuation and maintenance of the existing site cover.

In total, the final clean-up for Romic includes the following elements:

  • Site-wide subsurface investigation
  • Ground water and soil remediation
  • Media clean-up objectives
  • Mitigation of emissions from diesel equipment
  • Ground water and surface water monitoring
  • Financial assurance for construction, operation, and maintenance of the remediation system
  • Land Use Restrictions
  • Five year remedy performance evaluation reports
  • Routine progress reports

Closure and Redevelopment of Romic

U.S. EPA's remedy decision was made in the context of the impending closure of the former Romic facility. Facility owners will convert the site to new uses following the closure and site clean-up.

The remedy is designed to allow for flexibility as redevelopment requires, such as coordinating the closure and site clean-up. The California Environmental Protection Agency's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is the agency in charge of overseeing the facility closure. The U.S. EPA will oversee the investigation and clean-up of subsurface soil and ground water contamination. The U.S. EPA and DTSC developed a coordinated two-phased strategy for the facility closure and site clean-up. In Phase 1, the aboveground hazardous waste management units will be closed and removed. Phase 2 work will begin with a subsurface investigation followed by clean-up of the soil and ground water contamination.

U.S. EPA's approach emphasizes that closure, clean-up and reuse are complementary goals. Consideration of anticipated property reuse will be an integral part of the U.S. EPA's clean-up decisions. U.S. EPA anticipates addressing issues related to site closure and reuse in the implementation of the clean-up.

U.S. EPA and DTSC will continue to work together to ensure that the facility is dismantled in an environmentally proactive manner, recycling or reusing as many parts of the facility as possible.

The community of East Palo Alto may benefit from the redevelopment which could generate new business for the community and additional revenues for the city, while at the same time resulting in a cleaner environment.

Public Participation

There has been broad interest and action by community groups and the general public in the last several years leading up to the remedy decision and closure of the facility. The U.S. EPA met with local community groups and city representatives to discuss the use of enhanced biological treatment as a possible method to clean-up the soil and ground water contamination.

On September 17, 2007, the U.S. EPA began a 45-day public comment period on the proposed remedy. The U.S. EPA conducted a public meeting and hearing on October 10, 2007 in East Palo Alto. During the public comment period, the U.S. EPA received 139 comments in verbal and written form. In response to public comments on the proposed remedy, the U.S. EPA modified the clean-up plan by adding two new requirements into the final remedy. The new requirements include (1) a site wide subsurface investigation of the former facility that will take place after closure is completed, and (2) emission mitigation for diesel powered construction equipment (greater than 25 horsepower) that will be used in the site clean-up.

The U.S. EPA will continue to keep the community informed about the clean-up activities at the former Romic facility.

More Information about Romic's East Palo Alto Facility

Environmental Protection Agency Support for Environmental Projects in East Palo Alto

For the past decade the U.S. EPA has been working through Brownfields grants, worker training programs, asthma assessments, and other programs to improve the human health and environment of the East Palo Alto community. History of the U.S. EPA Involvement with East Palo Alto (PDF) (2 pp, 149K)

All of the documents, correspondence, data and other information the U.S. EPA considered in selecting the final remedy for the former Romic facility are included in the Administrative Record. The reference documents, which the U.S. EPA used to prepare the final remedy decision, along with a list of all items in the Administrative Record are available for public review at the following location:

East Palo Alto Public Library
2415 University Avenue
East Palo Alto, California 94303
Phone: (650) 321-7712

Hard copies of the full administrative record are available for public review at the following location:

Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 Office
75 Hawthorne Street,
San Francisco, California

To make an appointment to see the Administrative Record, contact the Project Manager, Ronald Leach (leach.ronald@epa.gov) at (415) 972-3362.

The following PDF files, which are available for downloading, contain the key documents U.S. EPA used in the remedy decision making process:

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more about PDF, and for a link to the free Adobe Reader.

Romic Green Remediation Pilot Study

The following PDF file, which is available for downloading, describes the Green Remediation Pilot Study that EPA conducted on the Romic clean-up remedy. The Pilot Study uses life-cycle assessment principles to estimate the environmental footprint from the clean-up.

Contact Information

EPA: Ronald Leach (leach.ronald@epa.gov)
(415) 972-3362

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