OJAI : Study Planned to See if Chapel Site Is Contaminated

Ojai officials plan to begin an environmental study immediately to determine if a former gas station has contaminated the property surrounding a historic downtown chapel that the city has offered to purchase.

The decision to look for soil contamination on grounds surrounding St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel was made Tuesday during a closed session on the status of the city's $300,000 bid for the historic Ojai Avenue church, City Manager Andrew Belknap said.

Council members called for the study after representatives of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which owns the chapel, were unable to confirm that there had been no seepage of toxic materials from an Exxon gas station formerly operated near the chapel, Belknap said.

The station closed in 1989, he said.

"It has become something of a sticking point whether the archdiocese would give us an environmental warranty in reference to the abandoned gas station," Belknap said.

"Whether there is contamination or not could obviously affect the price and even whether we still want to purchase the property."

The study, scheduled to cost between $5,000 and $10,000, will be conducted in the next few weeks, Belknap said, and the results will be delivered to the City Council in June.

Negotiations over the chapel purchase have been stalled, awaiting resolution of the contamination issue, Belknap said.

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