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Brea Seeks ‘Peace of Mind’ on Pit Waste : City Wants Check Made on Material Left From Drilling Operation

Times Staff Writer

Concerned that materials left from an oil-drilling operation on land adjacent to Brea may be hazardous, city officials asked the county on Wednesday to “give the City of Brea peace of mind” by investigating whether proper procedures were followed.

Ray Ouellette, Shell staff environmental engineer, said the work done was in accordance with applicable laws.

The substances in question are nontoxic and not hazardous, Ouellette said. The temporary drilling operation--which had up to 11 pits--has shut down and crews now are cleaning the area, he said.

But Councilwoman Norma A. Hicks, who said she travels past the site on Carbon Canyon Road and Valencia Avenue six to eight times a day, said she is worried that liquids were dumped into open pits.

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“We have great suspicion about what was done and we want proof that they did not contaminate that whole area,” said Hicks, who agreed with her colleagues at a Tuesday council meeting to urge the county to investigate.

Fear Another McColl Dump

“If we’re wrong about what we’re alleging, fine, then tell us,” Hicks said. “We want to know we’re not creating another McColl on that site,” referring to the toxic dump site in Fullerton that contains petroleum wastes.

Ouellette said the material in the pits is “plain old drilling mud,” which is primarily clay and water, he said.

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About two months ago, when the pits were still open, state officials--at the behest of city and county officials--checked the site and found nothing “inappropriate” in the operations, said Bob Griffith, head of Orange County’s hazardous materials program.

But the city was under the impression that the material in the pits would be removed when the drilling was completed, according to Hicks and Brea Development Services Director William R. Kelly.

“We don’t know if it’s wrong yet. We need to understand what they’re doing out there better,” Kelly said.

John Wolfe, enforcement division director of the county Environmental Management Agency, said his office plans to meet with Brea officials and inspect the site next Tuesday.

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Hicks said the land, in unincorporated territory about half a mile from any homes, was never separated by fences from nearby Carbon Canyon Road. The councilwoman criticized Shell for “not protecting against the possibility of children or animal life going into that area.”

Along with her colleagues, Hicks asked Supervisor Bruce Nestande to investigate the company’s procedures “and to give the City of Brea peace of mind (about) what is contained within those pits.”


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