Responding to safety concerns from Barron Park residents, Palo Alto plans to expand its study of possible hazards stemming from a plating shop operated by Communications and Power Industries in the neighborhood.
The City Council is scheduled to approve on Monday, April 7, a $21,500 addition to the city's contract with the firm AECOM for an assessment of risks associated with storage, handling and disposal of hazardous materials at the company site, 607-811 Hansen Way. The addition will raise the total contract to $98,500.
Concerns about hazardous materials at CPI, a manufacturer of microwave and radio transmission devices, surfaced shortly after the company relocated its plating shop to Palo Alto from San Carlos in 2006. That year, the company accidentally released a nitric acid cloud over the neighborhood. This was followed by two incidents in 2008, one in March in which CPI spilled 80 gallons of hydrochloric acid at its facility (20 gallons were released on the asphalt pavement) and another in June when the company released 50 gallons of wastewater into Matadero Creek.
The request from City Manager James Keene for additional risk-analysis funds comes in the aftermath of a January report in which AECOM considered different scenarios involving seismic events. These included a breach of nitric acid and various chemical spills. The report found that each event would have a relatively low risk of impacting individuals off site.
At a February public hearing, residents challenged the report's conclusions and demanded more information, including about the impact of more severe events, such as a potentially catastrophic earthquake. The new contract with AECOM requires air-dispersion modeling on "a much greater worst-case release scenario," according to the revised contract.
In addition to this analysis, the city had previously funded an amortization study to consider a reasonable amount that CPI could be given to phase out its plating-ship operation. That analysis concluded that 20 years would be reasonable, with the clock starting to tick in 2006, when the latest improvements to the plating shop were made.
The City Council is tentatively scheduled to consider the risk assessment on May 12.