Wells are being drilled just outside the schoolyard at Fillmore's San Cayetano Elementary School to determine if ground-water contamination has spread from a closed Texaco refinery, Environmental Protection Agency officials said Thursday.
The nearby refinery, which closed in 1950, has contaminated on-site ground water with hazardous substances including benzene, xylene, lead and chromium, officials said.
Water quality at the school's boundary is being monitored by three wells recently drilled outside the schoolyard fence in an EPA study funded by Texaco.
The school gets its water from city wells, which are not in the area, officials said.
In addition to analyzing ground water in and around the site, investigators will examine soil samples and test sediment from Pole Creek, which separates the site from the school and residential areas. Work began July 23, and the initial phase is scheduled for completion by September, EPA officials said.
Terry Wilson, a spokesman for the EPA's regional office in San Francisco, said that Texaco disposed of oil wastes in unlined pits, a common practice at refineries before 1950. Although refinery equipment has been dismantled, the property is still in use as a crude-oil pumping station for local wells. In 1980, Texaco discovered contamination on the site, Wilson said.
According to EPA records, Texaco was required to drill a network of monitoring wells following a 1983 investigation by the California Department of Health Services, and 38,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil was removed in 1986.
The site was assigned to the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List in 1988.
Pollution and noise caused by the 1986 excavation has caused citizen concern about the safety of the new study. The EPA sent newsletters to nearby residents early last month, advising them that the current operation will be both safer and less obtrusive.
San Cayetano Principal Karen Cooksey said EPA officials and representatives from Texaco met with her staff to reassure them. She added that Texaco and its contractor, ENSR Consulting and Engineering of Camarillo, made special efforts to complete drilling adjacent to the schoolyard before classes were in session.
Work continued on Texaco property Wednesday, as Fillmore schools held their first day of classes on a year-round schedule.