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HUNTINGTON BEACH : Tests Show Seepage at Site Poses No Risk

About 500 gallons of watery material that was discovered seeping through the earthen walls of a former toxic dump site pose no danger to the environment or to the health of nearby residents, officials said Thursday.

Results of laboratory tests by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control, received late Thursday, reveal only a slight hydrocarbon contamination, Deputy Fire Marshal Rick Grunbaum said.

The watery substance contained perhaps two gallons of material believed to be from crude oil wastes, Grunbaum said. Nevertheless, the seepage raised concern because the site served as a disposal area for oil-field wastes from 1938 until 1984.

Officials cordoned off the area along Hamilton Avenue to keep people from walking or riding their bicycles through the material. The barricades remained in place Thursday.

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Grunbaum said heavy rains in the last couple of months saturated berms and ponds containing such materials as crude oil, drilling mud and sludge at the former Ascon Landfill at Magnolia Street and Hamilton Avenue. The water leaked through holes in the soggy 25-foot to 35-foot-high berm, taking some of the oily material with it, Grunbaum said.

Now that the test results have been received, Fire Department officials will draft a plan to remove the water from street gutters, Grunbaum said.

The NESI Development Group, owner of the 39-acre site, normally would be required to pay for the cleanup, but it has filed for bankruptcy protection and is unable to pay, Grunbaum said. The city is now responsible for the cleanup and probably would seek to recover costs through the landowner or the state, Grunbaum said. Costs are estimated at less than $5,000, he said.

In October, the City Council approved an agreement with NESI that would allow the company to build 502 homes and condominiums once the property is cleared of hazardous materials. The cost of cleaning up toxic wastes at the site was estimated at $30 million, city officials said.

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Some residents at a City Council meeting last fall said they feared that the unearthing of hazardous materials during the cleanup operation would endanger nearby families. Cleanup of the hazardous materials as a condition for housing construction had not begun due to economic problems and a slump in the housing industry, city officials said.


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