Fullerton Settles for $2.5 Million on McColl Dump

Times Staff Writer

The City of Fullerton has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the 141 families near the McColl hazardous waste dump who have claimed in numerous lawsuits that someone should have warned them that the landfill was not safe.

The city is the first of the three major defendants in the McColl case to settle with the families. The other two are the developers that built the tracts: the J.F. Shea Co. and the William Lyon Co.

The agreement brings the total settlements, including those with nine other defendants, to $5.5 million.


Not all families were involved in all the settlements. But Jeffrey A. Matz of Encino, attorney for most of them, said that all will share in about $4.5 million of the $5.5 million. Matz called it the largest settlement ever made by a city in a toxic waste case.

“This is very good news for us,” he said. “Negotiations are moving right along with the other two defendants left. I’m confident we will settle this issue without going to trial.”

The Fullerton City Council agreed to the settlement Tuesday. Council members noted that the city’s insurance carriers--more than a dozen--will pay most of the cost, and only $198,000 will come out of the city’s budget.

Matz said the “size of the settlement speaks for itself” in showing that the McColl families had a good case.

Fullerton Mayor Allen B. Catlin said the settlement is not an admission by the city that it was in the wrong.

“Our legal fees in this case have been more than $250,000,” Catlin said. “We feel we’re coming out of this pretty good by cutting our losses.”

During World War II, oil companies that produced high-octane aviation fuel deposited their waste in 12 leased sumps at the dump, operated by oil industry consultant Eli McColl.

The dump, which lies under a vacant field and part of the Los Coyotes Country Club golf course, is bordered on three sides by expensive homes in northwest Fullerton.

Concern over the dump’s noxious odors began when the first homes were occupied near the site in 1978.

After years of lobbying by Fullerton residents and local officials, the federal government agreed last year to a $26.5-million federal Superfund cleanup project to remove the foul-smelling waste. But the cleanup was blocked when a Superior Court judge in Kern County ordered a state environmental impact report, which may take a year to complete.