SEAL BEACH : Scientists Address Quake Test Fears

Two U.S. Geological Survey scientists studying earthquake fault lines tried to reassure the City Council this week that an explosion they plan for the week of Oct. 24 at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station poses no risk.

Not everyone was convinced.

"I'm very skeptical of this," said Councilwoman Gwen Forsythe. "I have this feeling inside that you don't mess with Mother Nature."

Echoing the concerns of some residents, Forsythe questioned whether the attempt to map potentially destructive faults underlying Southern California by setting off an explosion is worth the risk.

But geophysicist Gary Fuis told the council there are no risks, despite the fact that one of 60 explosions to be set off from Barstow to Seal Beach will take place 140 feet below the weapons station. Fuis said weapons station officials have assured him the relatively small blast could not explode weapons stored at the base.

"That's the least of your worries," Fuis said.

Council members also asked if the explosions could trigger earthquakes, but Fuis again said there is no cause for alarm. He said similar tests were conducted in the San Francisco Bay area in April, 1991, and May, 1993, directly on the San Andreas fault with no negative effects.

"Every day in the L.A. basin, there are construction blasts as big or bigger than the blast we're going to set off and they don't trigger earthquakes," Fuis told council members. "The only event we know of that has triggered an earthquake is another earthquake."

After the presentation, Mayor George Brown said he was satisfied there appears to be no risk to the city.

"I feel a little uncomfortable about it, but that's their specialty," Brown said. "I'm going to have to rely on what they tell us."

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