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Environmental Cleanup Site Information (ECSI) Database
Site Summary Report - Details for Site ID 291, Alkali Lake Disposal Site   

This report shows data entered as of November 26, 2014 at 9:14:35 AM

This report contains site details, organized into the following sections: 1) Site Photos (appears only if the site has photos); 2) General Site Information; 3) Site Characteristics; 4) Substance Contamination Information; 5) Investigative, Remedial and Administrative Actions; and 6) Site Environmental Controls (i.e., institutional or engineering controls; appears only if DEQ has applied one or more such controls to the site).  A key to certain acronyms and terms used in the report appears at the bottom of the page.

Note: DEQ may have posted online documents related to this site. If so, they would be available for viewing or downloading on ECSI Summary Page

Go to DEQ's Facility Profiler to see a site map as well is information on what other DEQ programs may be active at this site.

Site Photos
Click to View Photo Picture Date Caption Size
View Photo 05/07/2004 Soil sample collection 57 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 CWDA 69 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 CWDA and Alkali from spoils pile 60 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 CWDA and west Alkali Lake 66 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 Desert crust and plant community 157 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 Groundwater sampling and well maintenance 53 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 North depression and west Alkali Lake 38 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 North Depression 55 Kb
View Photo 05/07/2004 Soil Treatment Areas 78 Kb

General Site Information

Site ID: 291 Site Name: Alkali Lake Disposal Site CERCLIS No: 980511497
Address: 30S/23E/S18 Alkali Lake 97640
  County: Lake Region: Eastern
Other location information: 60 miles north of Lakeview
Investigation Status: Listed on CRL or Inventory
Brownfield Site: No NPL Site: No Orphan Site: No Study Area: No
Property: Twnshp/Range/Sect: 30S , 23E , 18 Tax Lots: 300
  Latitude: 42.9676 deg. Longitude: -120.0469 deg.  Site Size: 10.29 acres
Other Site Names:
 

Site Characteristics

General Site Description: The Alkali Lake Chemical Waste Disposal Site is in Lake County, Oregon, about 60 miles north of Lakeview. The main disposal area occupies about 10 acres, just west of Alkali Lake. Alkali Lake is dry most of the year, as are most surface water bodies in this area.
Site History:
Contamination Information: (April 26, 2005, Bob Schwarz)

About 25,000 drums of pesticide manufacturing waste were disposed of here in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The waste products were primarily distillation residues from the production of the herbicides 2,4-D, 2,4-dichlorophenol, and MCPA. These wastes also include dioxins.

In July 1976, the Oregon Legislature allocated funds for remedial action at the site. In October 1976, the State condemned and took possession of the 10-acre disposal area. By this time, many of the drums, which contained highly corrosive, acidic wastes, had rusted and were leaking. In November 1976, the drums were crushed and buried in 12 shallow unlined trenches in an area referred to as the chemical waste disposal area (CWDA). Each trench was 2 to 2.5 feet deep (the water table in the area is typically only 3 to 6 feet below the ground surface). The trenches were approximately 400 feet long and 60 feet apart. Each mound of crushed drums was covered with two feet of soil, with an additional six inches of crushed rock to prevent wind erosion of the soil cover. The trenches were surrounded with a four-foot barbed wire fence.

Some of the waste has leached through the soils to shallow groundwater. As a result, a groundwater contaminant plume extends about 2,000 feet west-northwest of the CWDA. The edge of the plume is near another primarily dry lake known as West Alkali Lake. Annual groundwater monitoring indicates that the plume has not expanded in the past 15 years.

In the early 1970s, the Oregon State University Environmental Health Sciences Center conducted land application research at the site to determine whether the chemicals could be treated by exposure to sunlight and the natural alkaline conditions. These experiments were done in four soil test plot areas covering about 25 acres south and east of the CWDA. Testing in 2001 did not show phenols and herbicides at these test sites. However, elevated levels of the more persistent dioxin compounds were found in about a quarter of the samples.

Soil dioxin levels are in the range of 50-100 ppt (parts per trillion) at the Chemical Waste Disposal Area and nearby soil incorporation areas and soil test plots. Levels in groundwater just downgradient of the Chemical Waste Disposal Area were measured at about 0.4 ppt. In October 2001, DEQ measured dioxins at several spots 0.25 and 5 miles from the site, to determine whether wind-blown dioxins might present risks to off-site receptors. No elevated dioxin levels were found. Dioxins were also measured in rats and mice at the site in 1996, primarily to evaluate potential effects on their predators. No elevated levels were found in these samples.
Manner and Time of Release: In 1969, the Oregon Department of Agriculture issued a temporary permit to Chemical Waste Storage and Disposition, Inc., to store herbicide manufacturing wastes at the site. Approximately 25,000 55-gallon drums of these wastes, generated by Rhodia Inc. (Portland, OR) were stockpiled there. Waste products were primarily distillation residues from the production of the herbicides 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), 2,4-DCP (2,4-dichlorophenol), and MCPA (2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid). These wastes also include chlorinated dibenzodioxins and chlorinated dibenzofurans. In 1971, the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Quality issued directives prohibiting additional shipments of waste to the site. These directives were in response to improper waste-handling practices. Between 1972 and 1974, the State took legal action in an attempt to force Chemical Waste Storage to clean up the area. These efforts were unsuccessful. In July 1976, the Oregon Legislature allocated funds for remedial action at the site. In October 1976, the State condemned and took possession of the 10.3-acre disposal area. By this time many of the drums, which contained highly corrosive, acidic wastes, had rusted and were leaking. In November 1976, the drums were crushed and buried in 12 shallow, unlined trenches in an area referred to as the Chemical Waste Disposal Area. Each trench was 2 to 2.5 feet deep (the water table in the area is typically only 3 to 6 feet deep). The trenches were approximately 400 feet long and 60 feet apart. Each mound of crushed drums was covered with 2 feet of soil, with an additional 6 inches of crushed rock, to prevent wind erosion of the soil cover. The trenches were surrounded with a 4-foot barbed-wire fence. Some of the waste is in contact with the shallow groundwater. As a result, a contaminant plume extends about 2,000 west-northwest of the Chemical Waste Disposal Area. The edge of the plume is near another primarily dry lake known as West Alkali Lake. Annual groundwater monitoring indicates that the plume has not expanded in the past 10 years. Adjacent to the Chemical Waste Disposal Area, there is a buried pile of 55-gallon drums that may contain paints, pigments, and solvents. Early aerial photographs and other historical records indicate that this mound may have been used as a treatment area to thin out some of the wastes, so they could be more easily applied to the land. In the early 1970s, the Oregon State University Environmental Health Sciences Center conducted such land-application research at the site, to determine whether the chemicals could be treated by exposure to sunlight and the natural alkaline conditions. These experiments were done in 4 soil test plot areas, covering about 25 acres south and east of the Chemical Waste Disposal Area.
Hazardous Substances/Waste Types: 2,4-D & MCPA herbicide residue containing chlorophenols and polymeric chlorophenoxyphenols; metallic chloride waste, paint and paint solvent; dioxins/furans (including 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin); EPA Waste #K043
Pathways: Potential contamination of groundwater, soil, air, & food chain. Water table 5 to 7 feet below ground level; site in groundwater discharge area. The groundwater discharge area is well studied; site investigation data has been obtained for soil, although only a gravel cover is present. No drinking water wells in immediate area, and the aquifer is not used as drinking water. Ecological receptors have been identified but not well studied. Shallow groundwater discharges to surface water at West Alkali Lake where trace contamination has been confirmed.
Environmental/Health Threats: The primary threats are believed to be potential exposures to ecological receptors, such as birds and other wildlife. Of particular concern from an ecological standpoint, the site is about 2 miles south of Hutton Springs, which is the sole habitat of the Tui Chub. The Tui Chub is classified as a threatened subspecies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Several species of migratory birds, including the Snowy Plover, also inhabit springs and lakes in the vicinity on a seasonal basis.
Status of Investigative or Remedial Action: (11/92 BPM/SRS) Long-term groundwater and ecological monitoring is occurring. DEQ has installed 3.9 miles of cattle fence, encompassing the site disposal area and areas north and west of the site. Additional security measures and protecting the integrity of the monitoring program are under consideration for 1993. (Also see site #1253 for more information on Oregon Metallurgical Corporation disposal area.)

(4/23/02 RPS/SRS) Because trespassers on the site for an extended time could be exposed to unsafe levels of contaminants, DEQ has fenced the Chemical Waste Disposal Area, and posted warning signs. A risk assessment to quantify risk to both human and ecological receptors is now underway. In addition to monitoring groundwater flow during normal conditions, DEQ has studied possible contaminant transport during flood conditions. Based on historical records of rainfall in the region, major flooding does not appear likely and the potential for the spread of contamination into these areas appears to be extremely remote.

(Bob Schwarz, Jan 17, 2008) A risk assessment completed in 2005 concludes that risk to offsite residents and workers is well below safe levels. Risk to trespassers on the site is also at or below safe levels. Nonetheless, DEQ has placed barbed wire fence around the CWDA and drum mound, and posted warning signs to minimize unnecessary exposure.

Areas surrounding the site are occasionally used for cattle grazing. To prevent cattle from grazing in the most affected areas, DEQ installed an additional 3.9 miles of barbed-wire fence, which encloses the CWDA, the groundwater contamination plume and West Alkali Lake.

The site is about 1.5 miles south of Hutton Springs, which is the sole habitat of the Hutton tui chub. The Hutton tui chub is classified as a threatened subspecies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. DEQ has therefore sampled water in this spring several times, and concluded that the site contamination does not affect this spring.

Several species of migratory birds, including the snowy plover, also inhabit springs and lakes in the vicinity on a seasonal basis. The risk assessment evaluated risk to migratory birds as well as wildlife living at that the site. The study concluded that these animals are not exposed to unsafe levels.

In April 2007, DEQ prepared a Record of Decision that summarizes site history and site conditions, and specifies future monitoring and maintenance activities. Fencing, signs, soil cover on the CWDA, and gravel roads to the site will be maintained as needed. The site will be inspected annually. Up to 15 groundwater monitoring wells will be sampled six times over the next 20 years, at two and a half-year intervals.

(March 24, 2014, Bob Schwarz) In accordance with the Record of Decision, DEQ conducted groundwater monitoring in the spring of 2009 and the fall of 2011. We also conduct annual inspections. Maintenance work has included the addition of gravel at locations within the 10-acre chemical waste disposal area at locations where depressions have been observed.
Data Sources:

Substance Contamination Information

Substance Media Contaminated Concentration Level Date Recorded
PHENOLS Groundwater 340 ppm (up to)  
TETRACHLORODIBENZO-p-DIOXIN,2,3,7,8- Soil 6-63 ng/kg  

Investigative, Remedial and Administrative Actions

Action Start Date Compl. Date Resp. Staff Lead Pgm
Periodic Review  (Primary Action) 04/20/2007   Robert Schwarz SRS
View Full Report Showing Action History

Key to Certain Acronyms and Terms in this Report:

  • CERCLIS No.: The U.S. EPA's Hazardous Waste Site identification number, shown only if EPA has been involved at the site.
  • Region: DEQ divides the state into three regions, Eastern, Northwest, and Western; the regional office shown is responsible for site investigation/cleanup.
  • NPL Site: Is this site on EPA's National Priority List (i.e., a federal Superfund site)? (Y/N).
  • Orphan Site: Has DEQ's Orphan Program been active at this site? (Y/N). The Orphan Program uses state funds to clean up high-priority sites where owners and operators responsible for the contamination are absent, or are unable or unwilling to use their own resources for cleanup.
  • Study Area: Is this site a Study Area? (Y/N). Study Areas are groupings of individual ECSI sites that may be contributing to a larger, area-wide problem. ECSI assigns unique Site ID numbers to both individual sites and to Study Areas.
  • Pathways: A description of human or environmental resources that site contamination could affect.
  • Lead Pgm: This column refers to the Cleanup Program affiliation of the DEQ employee responsible for the action shown. SAS or SAP = Site Assessment; VCS or VCP = Voluntary Cleanup; ICP = Independent Cleanup; SRS or SRP = Site Response (enforcement cleanup); ORP = Orphan Program.

You may be able to obtain more information about this site by contacting Robert Schwarz at the Eastern regional office or via email at schwarz.bob@deq.state.or.us. If this does not work, you may contact Gil Wistar at (503) 229-5512, or via email at wistar.gil@deq.state.or.us or contact the Eastern regional office.

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For more information about ECSI call Gil Wistar at 503-229-5512 or email.

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