Thursday, May 19, 2011
Contaminated soils exported
When the Ades and Gish nursery was put up for sale, long time ago, many of us neighbors became aware of the presence of toxics in the soil, primarily Dieldrin. We asked many questions from the Planning Commission and from the City.
The decision made by the City was that the contaminated soil should be taken off the property and disposed of according to County regulations. The other option had been to bury the soil onsite, but not under the roads, because of danger to utility crews, instead, buried under the houses to be built on the property.
We, the Neighbors of Ades and Gish (NAG), were pleased --insofar as one can be pleased about such things-- with the decision to haul the toxics off the site and out of the city. We even praised City staff for selecting this option among the various solutions acceptable to the County.
This was 2006-07, long time ago. The property passed through 3 owners since then and is now being developed by Warmington Residential, a very large developer based in the LA area. Warmington has been a good neighbor, and has dealt with us in quite a respectful and cooperative fashion. I said so at the last Planning Commission meeting, and meant it.
When the humongous machines appeared next door to us (by the way, a totally fascinating spectacle), we became concerned about the toxic soil again. I asked the site superintendent, who assured me that they had much experience with removing soils contaminated with dieldrin and similar agricultural chemical, and that they did it so well that their workers were not even required to wear masks. I contacted the City and they confirmed that toxic material was being hauled off-site, as specified in the tentative map approved by the City, and that additional soil testing was going to be performed to verify that the remaining soil was "clean" after the grading was finished.
I talked again to Warmington, and they told me the soil was taken to a transfer station near Otay Mesa, and from there shipped to Mecca, where a specialized plant would incinerate it. I was satisfied, except that I wondered how the city would verify the cleanliness of the remining soils....You see, they moved so much material right and left and up and down that any top layer would have been diluted into the enormous trenches and piles of dirt well before the City would get their act together to run any tests. However, be it as it may, Warmington was as good as their word and there was very little dust onto our property immediately east of the construction site (one of my main concerns).
I looked up things on the web and found out that there is indeed a major dirt incineration plant just north of Mecca, and that the County had approved its use to deal with agricultural toxics. I explained that to neighbors of the Brown property and to neighbors of the Hall property, indicating that I found the solution to be satisfactory, and likely better than onsite burial.
We held were several meetings with Warmington, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, and other neighbors, and everything appeared to be kosher. As far as we all could tell, all issues had been resolved to everyone's satisfaction, and we indicated that to the Planning Commission. The Commissioners expressed considerable satisfaction about the civil interaction between developer and neighbors.
So this morning, reading the Los Angeles Times (May 15, 2011), I was stunned when I ran across the article attached as a PDF file, with the title "Noxious odor plagues a poor desert region: Smell sickens children and adults. Regulators blame a soil-recycling plant on tribal land" ... You guessed it, this is in Mecca.
The fact that the soils from our neighborhood probably contributed to this disgusting situation does not exactly warm my heart. The fact that our city is part and parcel of this sordid story does not make me feel comfortable with the way we deal with the development of nurseries around town. City staffers and officials can of course use the classical bureaucratic dodge that the County has authority and the city's hands are tied in the matter of toxic soils. I think this is not morally tenable.
I suggest that neighbors of the Brown and Hall properties and other nurseries approved for development have a look into it. The solution to this class of problems should emerge from a rational discussion and an agreement between bureaucrats and citizens, and not from the fact that powerful developers can de facto lord it over poor desert residents.... I am having nightmares about Love Canal (for those of us old enough to remember.)
When will they ever learn?
Here is the link. Share it with others.