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COSTA MESA : Council to Consider Joining Group’s Suit

The City Council will review a lawsuit to determine whether it should join the Koll-Irvine Center Property Owners Assn. in seeking to force the county to remove three fuel tanks at John Wayne Airport.

The lawsuit, filed two weeks ago, was brought by business owners in the center who claim that the potential for an accident involving the tanks that could destroy their businesses and cause personal injury is much greater than county engineers have determined. The 300,000-gallon, 22-foot-high tanks store jet fuel for planes at John Wayne Airport, which is next to the business complex.

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, seeks either the removal of the tanks or placing them underground, where the business owners believe that they would be out of the way in the event of a plane crash.

The business owners appealed to the City Council last week, asking the city to join in on the lawsuit and share court expenses.

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“Clearly, the scenario affects Costa Mesa,” said attorney Barbara E. Lichman, who represents the business association.

The City Council discussed joining the lawsuit in closed session but delayed a decision until the city attorney reviews the case.

In addition to the potential danger to themselves and their businesses, members of the association say they fear that their property values will go down and that insurance costs will skyrocket because of the center’s proximity to the tanks.

According to a report by a consultant hired by the association, a catastrophic risk analysis concluded that the safe distance to avoid disaster would be 1 mile if one tank exploded and 2 miles if all three blew up. Some of the center’s buildings are less than 100 feet from the fuel tanks.

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But airport officials say the tank farm includes numerous safety factors, including a nearby fire station, fire-retardant foam dispensers and foam cannons inside and outside the tanks. The fuel used is also not as volatile as many jet fuels used in other airports, Airport Director Jan Mittermeier said.


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