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Community garden to be tested for contaminants

County health officials are closing Costa Mesa's Hamilton Community Garden for one day next week as a precautionary move to test its soil for possible contaminants.

Polluted soil, probably caused by existing or closed automotive repair businesses, was reported at an adjacent property where 28 homes are scheduled to be built.

Though officials do not anticipate that the public garden at 523 Hamilton St. has been similarly affected, the site will be closed May 14 to allow for a drilling machine to take samples.

Garden stakeholders were first informed about the testing in a May 6 letter written by Costa Mesa's public services director, Ernesto Munoz. City officials then distributed the letter Tuesday afternoon and posted it on the city's website.

The soil testing, paid for by the developer, is part of a required remediation process before any homes are built.

Munoz wrote that the drilling will take place in a few locations along the garden's eastern-most walkway — between rows of plots.

"There should not be any impact on your garden plots," Munoz wrote to garden users. "Upon completion of the work, the garden will be left in the same condition as it was prior to the work. We are asking for your cooperation in allowing us to close the garden for a day."

Though Munoz stressed that county health officials have no reason to believe that Hamilton's soil is contaminated, its users are "advised to consider the stated facts and to decide whether they want to continue use of their garden plots until the county makes a final determination."

A public meeting about the testing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday in City Hall's Conference Room 1A, 77 Fair Drive. County health officials, representatives of the California Environmental Protection Agency and others will be on hand to answer questions.

Residents can also contact Anthony Martinez of the Orange County Health Care Agency at (714) 433-6011.

The Hamilton Community Garden has 42 parcels measuring about 8 by 7 feet. The garden is for Costa Mesa residents' personal use.

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