OCWD Board of Directors

Cathy Green
First Vice President
Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Second Vice President
Philip L. Anthony
Jordan Brandman
Shawn Dewane
Jan M. Flory, ESQ.
Dina L. Nguyen, ESQ.
Roman Reyna
Stephen R. Sheldon
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.
General Manager
Michael R. Markus
P.E., D.WRE.

February 2015 President's Message—
Let's Clean it Up!

Orange County's economy thrives, in part, because of a reliable source of local water. The Orange County Water District (OCWD) is charged with managing and protecting the county's groundwater basin to ensure long-term production of clean water from our local sources at the lowest possible costs.

The groundwater basin is being threatened. In the North Basin, near the cities of Fullerton, Anaheim and Placentia, industrial contamination has seeped into the groundwater basin and has necessitated shutting down four wells. The contamination is from improper disposal of chemical solvents and other compounds from as far back as the 1950s and 1960s. The dumping has stopped but once the pollution is in the ground, it can and usually does spread.

Please be assured that ongoing testing by OCWD and the closure of wells, when needed, ensures that only clean water is delivered to homes and businesses in Orange County. But, we need a fully-functioning groundwater basin, especially as we enter our fourth year of drought.

OCWD had been pursuing cleanup options for years, including litigation against companies responsible for causing the contamination. Last year, OCWD reached an agreement with the Orange County Business Council and state legislators to use a new approach to solving the problem. We agreed to follow a federally-recognized process called the National Contingency Plan (NCP). The NCP is a framework used in states across the country for bringing together stakeholders, regulators and elected leaders to clean up contamination and pollution.

The District recognizes the importance of working with responsible parties, and it seeks an opportunity to ensure that ratepayers are not saddled, inappropriately, with these cleanup costs.

The NCP process includes significant community involvement. This includes preparing a Community Involvement Plan, providing fact sheets and public notices, establishing an information repository where the public has easy access to site-related documents, soliciting public review of the proposed remediation plan, and holding public meetings. Compliance with NCP provides a clear road that identifies various cleanup options that are reviewed and scrutinized by the public, regulators and principal responsible parties (PRPs).

As part of the preliminary NCP process, the District has been meeting with the appropriate federal and state agencies, including the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The NCP process determines the appropriate agency to lead future investigations, remediation plans and cost recovery.

On February 18, 2015, our board voted to negotiate with EPA to assume lead responsibility for the NCP process in the North Basin area. We believe working with EPA will ensure that the appropriate expertise is being utilized to secure the best solution for a problem that poses significant multiple risks to the greater Orange County community.

Under an agreement with EPA, the agency will oversee the work that OCWD does in the interim remedy Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) and review, comment and approve OCWD's deliverables. After input is provided by OCWD, the state, the principal responsible parties, and the public, EPA will decide upon the interim remedy to contain the groundwater contamination in the North Basin.

By following NCP, the North Basin contamination issue could be placed on the National Priority List (NPL) by the EPA. However, the NPL process includes an “off-ramp” from leading to NPL listing once the interim remedy is selected.

The only time that EPA needs to place a site on the NPL is when PRPs refuse to do the cleanup work that EPA may require, and EPA is forced to spend its own money. NPL listing in a community rests on the shoulders of responsible parties who do not comply with the community-vetted remedy. That is why many people call the NPL the program of last resort.

In the next several months, the District will be conducting community meetings and public workshops. OCWD will continue to keep you informed of its progress.