Seventy-eight families living near Fullerton's McColl hazardous waste site would receive $400,000 from Chevron Corp. and a subsidiary in the first proposed settlement of lawsuits filed by residents over the toxic dump, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said Tuesday night.
The attorney, Jeffrey Matz of Encino, said, however, that he has asked the residents not to divide up the money, if they receive it, but to use the funds to pay for a "comprehensive, scientific analysis" of how the plaintiffs and their properties were affected by the substances found in their soil and their proximity to the McColl site.
Matz disclosed the amount of the proposed settlement after a meeting with about 90 of his clients in the clubhouse of The Estates, one of the several developments north of the World War II dump where plaintiffs live.
The agreement was reached last week by Matz and an attorney for Chevron (formerly Standard Oil Co. of California) and its subsidiary, Chevron USA. The proposed settlement will go before Orange County Superior Court Judge Phillip Petty on Feb. 28.
Chevron once owned property north of the McColl dump and used it to deposit spent drilling muds, the oil company's attorney, Kenneth L. Waggoner of Costa Mesa, said. The company and its subsidiary never dumped refinery wastes on its property or in the McColl site, across Rosecrans Avenue, the attorney said.
As a second part of the proposed settlement, 50 families south of Rosecrans Avenue would drop their lawsuit against Chevron because the firm never had any holdings in the area, Matz said.
Many residents of the area around the dump still have lawsuits standing against about a dozen more defendants, including oil companies suspected of dumping at the McColl site, government agencies, housing developers and a property owner.
Matz represents the majority of McColl-area residents who have filed lawsuits.
The McColl dump was created in the mid-1940s when local refineries produced high-octane fuel for the war and deposited their acid wastes in 12 licensed pits operated by Eli McColl. The pits were located in rural Fullerton at the time. Matz said Chevron is a peripheral defendant in the lawsuits. However, the oil company should have cleaned up its property before selling it to the developer, and there is some uncertainty about the exact nature of material that was poured into the Chevron sumps, he said. The material was plowed into the soil before the houses were built, and residents have claimed that there are pockets of oily, smelly dirt on their property.
Chevron's attorney has said his client is admitting no guilt or liability by settling with the residents. The amount of the proposed settlement is "substantially less" than it would have cost to defend the residents' lawsuit if it had gone to trial, Waggoner said.