Palo Alto seeks more risk analysis at CPI

City looks to expand its study after concerns from Barron Park residents

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.


Like this comment
Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:58 am

Three strikes and you are out? No wonder the residents are concerned! There has been hazardous operations in the industrial part for a long time. There are probably many fewer then there once were. HP, where I worked, had many. I remember taking a car ride to a conference with the manager of the plating shop at the bottom of the hill. He was telling me how clean the facility was, how they have fish swimming in their waste water to make sure it is clean enough to drink. But boy did his clothes smell of chemicals. But the point is that all these facilities didn't have toxic spills every couple of years like this facility has had. It is a management issue and they either need to prove they fixed it, or get out of town.

Like this comment
Posted by Former neighbor
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 4, 2014 at 12:12 pm

We lived near there for three years. The chemical odor emanating from the place was awful on at least three days per week. We decided to sell before starting a family....didn't want any two-headed children!

Like this comment
Posted by JanN
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Need A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT! FOR people and creatures. we need both!

Like this comment
Posted by Is-There-A-Geologist-In-The-House?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2014 at 9:05 am

A recent POST article offered its version of this story—quoting some bozo claiming that he was concerned that a horrific earth quake might strike the CPI facility, allowing all of its toxic chemicals to affect the nearby Barron Park homes. Of course, the likelihood that an horrific earthquake could target the CPI site and not destroy all, or at least most, of the Barron Park homes is about zero. In fact, it’s closer to triple-zero!

Got to wonder how anyone (this guy is on the Planning Commission) can be so brazen as to insult the intelligence of everyone in Palo Alto which this craziness. Even if some of CPI’s chemicals were to escape, just how much damage could those chemicals do to a neighborhood that had been flattened by a major movement of the ground?

This guy has no business being on any City Board or Commission!

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Monroe Park

on Jun 6, 2017 at 5:21 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

California Democrats seek to revive the Republican Party; Republicans expected to resist
By Douglas Moran | 27 comments | 2,507 views

Chocolate + Tahini Ice Box Pie
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 849 views

Oh, My Aching Knees
By Max Greenberg | 11 comments | 477 views

Love is a Verb
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 417 views


Registration now open!

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here