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Desert Junk Pile Probed, Keeps Its Secrets

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Call it the case of the mysterious desert junk pile.

Call it unsolved.

Last month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors demanded an investigation into a large and apparently growing collection of trash, furniture and other items behind High Desert Hospital in Lancaster.

Intrepid investigators stormed the area, known as the pit, and found a mountain of evidence: broken desks, chairs and gurneys; pieces of prefabricated bungalows from Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and the axles they traveled on; a card-writer from an old computer, and much more.

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According to county officials, someone has been disciplined for letting the pile grow. They won’t say who.

But a report to the Supervisors from County Health Director Mark Finucane released Friday showed that most administrators at the hospital denied knowledge of the pit--even though photos taken by the Civilian Conservation Corps showed a big pile of stuff in the same location as early as 1933.

Hospital director Mel Grussing said he did not know about the dumping until last November, according to the report. Grussing should have known sooner about the pile, Finucane said in the report.

All of the junk has now been removed from the pit, according to the report, and some usable items have been moved to the county’s surplus storage area.

Grussing “indicated in a memo dated Jan. 16, 1998, that the high desert area is known for its dry environment, and that rust and corrosion are a minimal problem,” the report stated. “Mr. Grussing also noted that the federal government stores planes and other metals outdoors because of this.”

But other items, such as television sets and a pile of scrap wood, were too weathered to be of any use.

The report did not say what became of the junkiest junk.

It will be up to the supervisors to decide whether the problem has been solved when they hear the report Tuesday.

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