CARSON, California-The city council put pressure on Shell Oil to clean up a toxic site by declaring an environmental emergency in a 50-acre portion of this city, known as Carousel 50, which has 265 homes.
Carson has a population of some 80,000, of whom 18,000 are Filipinos. Residents started getting sick from undetected effluents left behind in land formerly occupied by an oil refinery.
“We knew that years ago this used to be a refinery,” said Sylvia Torres, daughter of Carousel homeowners, “but we didn’t know that there was something still here.”
Torres said they realized something was wrong “because when they were digging in our neighbors’ front yard my parents were getting nauseous and dizzy.” They had to tell them to stop digging, she said.
“My parents were at the emergency meeting. Basically, we’re in danger,” stated Sylvia Torres, daughter of Carousel homeowners. “They need to do right at this point and get my parents re-situated somewhere safe.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Elito M. Santarina, a Filipino-American, moved a resolution stating “Delay is unacceptable to the Carson City Council and to our entire community” and signed by Carson Mayor Jim Dear on August 1.
The city asked the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board to immediately compel Shell Oil to fully comply with a cleanup and abatement order.
The cleanup order is specified for a depth of 10 feet. The contamination has existed more than 40 years and could be contaminated to up to 40 feet.
Shell conducted an investigation to determine if the site poses an immediate risk to those living, visiting, or working in the area.
An interim report on October 15th, 2009 confirmed that soil and groundwater beneath the site was severely contaminated. Petroleum hydrocarbons, methane and benzene, exceeded the lower explosive limit (LEL).
Benzene, a known carcinogen, was detected at a concentration of 3,800,000 micrograms per meter cube, 100,000 times more than the California Human Health Screening Level (CHHSL) concentration value of 36.2.
Methane gas poses a fire and explosion hazard when it accumulates in an enclosed space with a source of ignition.
“It has been about five years since the contamination has been discovered,” stated Mayor Dear. “The City of Carson decided to take action over a year ago, but the filing of the lawsuit was just recent,” he added.
Carousel homes were selling for $400,000-600,000 but are now valued from $200,000 to $375,000.
“Shell should purchase every home in Carousel Tract, demolish the homes and clean the soil completely and rebuild something at the site,” said Dear.
The city council is informing California Governor Jerry Brown of the emergency for possible immediate assistance from the state.