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Toxics cleanup study to begin at Palo Alto site

Contamination at former Watkins-Johnson facility in Stanford Research Park to be examined

The site of a former electronics firm in Palo Alto will soon undergo a pilot study for possible cleanup of hazardous materials deposited there since the late 1950s, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control has announced.

The contamination is located at the former Watkins-Johnson facility at 3333 Hillview Ave. in the Stanford Research Park. Hazardous levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, such as tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene were found in the groundwater during an investigation of site soil and water between 1991 and 1993, according to the DTSC. The site was first developed in 1958 for the design, development and manufacture of advanced electronics for military, industrial and space applications. Cleanup has been underway since 1995.

A pilot study starting on May 5 will examine using microbes that ingest hazardous chemicals and change them into benign substances. Workers will inject an emulsified vegetable oil into existing wells on the site and two weeks later, they will add injected dehalococcoides microbes, which are expected to enhance the breakdown of chemicals at the site and are commonly used for bioremediation projects of this nature. The sampling and injection areas may be blocked off during the trial period, which is expected to last two weeks, DTSC officials said.

Documents regarding the contaminated site can be found at the USGS Library, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Further data is available through DTSC's Envirostor website at www.envirostor.dtsc.ca.gov/public. Enter "Palo Alto" in the city section and select "Watkins-Johnson" from the list of sites.

Questions regarding the cleanup can be directed to Jovanne Villamater, DTSC project manager, 510-540-3876 or by emailing Jovanne.Villamater@dtsc.ca.gov. Information regarding public meetings can be obtained by contacting Richard Perry, DTSC public participation specialist, at 510-540-3910, toll free at 866-495-5651 or by emailing Richard.Perry@dtsc.ca.gov. Hearing-impaired users can call 888-877-5378 and ask to speak to Richard Perry.

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