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Last Edited: 8/5/2010

Cooper Drum Site, South Gate - Public Health Activities

In 1994 and again in 2004, the California Department of Public Health--formerly California Department of Health Services (CDHS)--conducted evaluations of the public health implications of contamination at the Cooper Drum Site.

The site

The Cooper Drum Site has been used to recondition steel drums since 1948. Site operations involve the handling of chemicals remaining in the used drums, and the use of chemicals to recondition the drums for re-sale, including sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, and paints. Soils, air, and groundwater have been impacted by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hydrochloric acid, and sodium hydroxide. This contamination exists on-site and, in some cases, off-site. In addition to the contamination at the Cooper Drum Site itself, there are a number of other contaminated properties in the immediate vicinity of the site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leads oversight at the Cooper Drum Site.


CDHS's involvement at the site

Under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDHS conducted two public health assessment reports for the Cooper Drum Site. The first health assessment was written when the site was nominated to EPA's National Priority List. The second health assessment was written approximately 10 years later, when additional site characterization data had been collected. 

On the basis of CDHS's review of the site data and visits to the neighborhood, CDHS is concerned that people may have come into contact with chemicals from the Cooper Drum Site and could be exposed to chemicals from the site in the future. Therefore, CDHS considers the Cooper Drum Site to be a Public Health Hazard.

Summary of CDHS's findings

  • The only completed exposure that represents a known health concern is past exposure to ambient air contaminated with hydrochloric acid. Outdoor air samples collected on the former Tweedy School property in 1986 indicate that inhalation of hydrochlric acid and volatile organic organic compounds (e.g., toluene) may have occurred in the past on the former Tweedy School property. Inhalation of toluene and hydrochloric acid may have resulted in adverse health effects (irritation of the eyes, throat, and lungs) to Tweedy students and staff in the past.
  • Because site operations have ceased on the site, current health risks relating to air are not a concern. However, if the site were to be used in the future for industrial purposes, exposures to ambient air contaminants could occur. 
  • Based on the proximity of soil and soil gas contaminants detected near buildings on the former Tweedy School property, it is possible that soil gas contaminants have made their way into buildings on the former Tweedy School property. Modeling estimates indicate that concentrations getting into buildings would be below any health risks.
  • Petroleum-contaminated soils were documented on the former Tweedy School property. However, these soils were not adequately tested to see if the levels would pose a health risk before they were removed in 1986. CDHS is concerned that students and staff at the Tweedy School prior to 1986 may have had contact with these soils. However, there is insufficient information to determine if these contaminants could have posed a health risk.
  • Metals, volatile organic compounds, and petroleum hydrocarbons have been identified as contaminants in soils from 6 to 12 inches below ground surface on the Cooper Drum Site. This exposure pathway is currently not complete because people are not exposed to the soil contaminants due to the pavement on the site. Workers could become exposed to these contaminants in the future if the pavement is removed or excavations occur on the site. The exposure of greatest concern is from incidental ingestion and dermal contact to contaminants.

Recommendations made in the public health assessments

  • Groundwater contamination from the site should be remediated to eliminate or redude the volatile organic compounds and other contaminants in the groundwater in the vicinity of the Cooper Drum Site. This recommendation has been addressed under the Record of Decision dated September 27, 2002.
  • If the site is not entirely remediated, institutional controls and/or deed restrictions should be implemented to ensure that the Cooper Drum Site is not used for residential purposes, and to ensure that subsurface contamination is not excavated and dispersed, or exposed to workers and residents in the area. Institutional controls are a part of the September 27, 2002, Record of Decision.
  • A survey of private well usage should be undertaken to ensure that nobody is consuming groundwater in the region contaminated by Cooper Drum.
  • To the extent possible, future soil sampling events should include surface or near surface soil sampling (less than 12 inches below ground surface).


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