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State health officials announced Wednesday that they will build a small earthen berm around the six-acre Chatham Brothers toxic waste site in the 2200 block of Bernardo Avenue in order to prevent cancer-causing PCBs from washing off the surface soil during rainfall. Officials also will consider covering the site with plastic until the site is cleaned up, perhaps within six months.

Officials discovered several weeks ago that trace amounts of PCBs had accumulated on residential property across from the toxic-waste site, presumably the result of rainwater runoff.

The amount of PCBs detected on the neighboring property was not believed to be dangerous but a toxicologist is still reviewing the findings, said Megan Cambridge, project manager for the Department of Health Services’ toxic substance control division.


She said Wednesday that some of the topsoil on the neighbor’s property will be removed and replaced with untainted soil, and that the berm should prevent any additional runoff.

About $2.5 million has been allocated by the state to clean up the site, which was identified in 1981 as dangerous because its previous owners had recycled oil and dry-cleaning chemicals on the site and dumped those chemicals that could not be reclaimed. Officials are still trying to determine the extent of ground and groundwater contamination in order to decide how best to clean the site.

Neighbors in the area have complained that the state has moved too slow in the cleanup, and Cambridge said Wednesday that the berm and the possible covering of the tainted ground would be a remedial action until the ultimate cleanup is completed.