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Draft plan to clean up former PG&E gas plant site up for public review

Former gas site

The fenced-off exterior to the former Pacific Gas & Electric Manufactured Gas Plant at the corner of Elm Street and Riverside Drive in Napa. 

A site along the Napa River contaminated by century-old pollution is a step closer to a long-awaited cleanup.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control introduced a draft plan last week to clean up century-old soil pollution that, a decade ago, prompted the razing of a Napa apartment complex at a south Napa site.

The draft remedial action plan for the former Pacific Gas & Electric Manufactured Gas Plant — a roughly 1.3 acre vacant property located along the Napa River at the corner of Elm Street and Riverside Drive — is available for public review until Aug. 3. The 1,975-page plan was prepared by the Terra Pacific Group, an Irvine-based environmental engineering firm, on behalf of PG&E.

The plant historically produced gas using coal and oil from 1889 to 1924, and was shut down after natural gas was introduced to Napa, according to the draft plan. PG&E sold the site in 1961, and the Riverside Apartments were built there a few years later.

The operations of the plant created substances that contaminated the soil and groundwater in the area, according to various environmental investigations carried out over the past 30 years. PG&E returned to the site in 2010 to study the pollution and, to do so, bought the apartments, relocated the tenants — each of the families received $22,250 from the company to help them find new homes — and tore down the buildings.

Today, the site is blocked off by a forest green fence that’s peppered with danger signs. The site itself, seen through the fence, is mostly barren and holds only the concrete foundations of the old apartments, some scattered grass and a single red rose bush.

The proposed remedy for the site, according to a community update from the DTSC, would involve digging up and hauling over a thousand truckloads of contaminated soil out of the site; mixing the remaining soil with stabilizing agents such as cement to prevent river or groundwater contamination; replacing the excavated soil with approximately 1,300 truckloads of clean soil; and installing a protective cap along the upper bank of the Napa River. Groundwater would also be monitored for a minimum of five years to check the effectiveness of the remediation.

If the plan is approved, it would be carried out in three separate work stages over the next few years.

The first portion of soil excavation, set to begin in 2022 and last four months, would involve the removal of 1,300 cubic yards in backyards and common areas near the main site, according to the community update. The bulk of the main site cleanup — excavating and disposing of 16,000 cubic yards of soil — would be set for 2023 and last roughly a year. And, according to the update, work on the Napa River cap would take roughly two months and may be timed to coincide with Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District flood control improvements.

The community update estimates that, if the plan goes forward, an average of 40 to 50 truck trips could occur daily in the area, on weekdays between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., during the peaks of remediation work. 

Safety measures, while the proposed work happens, include: fencing off work areas; air monitoring on the site perimeter as well as upwind and downwind of excavation and treatment areas; noise and vibration monitoring along the site perimeter; water, spray foam, and plastic sheeting for the purpose of controlling dust and odors; and covering up truck loads, inspecting trucks and cleaning tires prior to the trucks leaving the site.

A DTSC virtual public meeting is scheduled for July 15 to provide information on the draft remedial action plan, answer questions and receive public comments. Information on how to join the meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m., can be found in the community update.

Construction continues at Napa's Stanly Ranch resort. A new section of trail has been added and repairs are expected at other sections. Take a look.

You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.

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