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ORANGE : Odors at Dredging Site Linked to Old Landfill

Neighbors of a future development off Tustin Avenue have been getting more whiffs of Orange history than they care to as workers excavate the site.

Few homeowners were happy when the city approved the 160-home project on the site of the old Santiago Golf Course in February, but now they say the construction work is dredging up contaminated soil that is making them ill.

“I thought I had an inner-ear infection because I was so dizzy and nauseated,” said Susie Tynes-Wobken, who started smelling strange odors about a week ago. “Then, I went outside yesterday, and oh my God, it just smelled horrible.”

Many friends nearby have also complained of headaches and queasy stomachs, she said.

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Fire and health officials investigated the 18-acre site Wednesday and said that although the odors are extremely unpleasant, they pose no long-term health risk.

Apparently, construction workers had begun excavating an area that a sand and gravel operation had used as a landfill in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the fill is dirt, concrete, tree stumps and other debris, but workers hit some petroleum-contaminated soil, said Carol Hodel, program manager in the Orange County Health Care Agency’s environmental health division.

“It’s not a health threat, but it’s definitely a nuisance,” said Hodel, who confirmed that the fumes from the gas-soaked soil could cause temporary headaches and nausea. “This was a worse smell because it’s been underground for a long time.”

Investigators also plan to test a small site of lead contamination that could have come from old lead-based glass dumped at the site, Hodel said.

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Officials from Van Daele Development Corp., the Riverside company building what will be Sycamore Crossing, told investigators that this part of the excavation should be finished this week. But health officials will continue to monitor the removal of contaminated dirt and also look into reports that rusted drums were removed from the former landfill, Hodel said.


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