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State Plans for Toxic Waste Sites Outlined

November 16, 1987|DAVID REYES | Times Staff Writer

The building that housed Metropolitan Circuits Inc. in Costa Mesa is set in a quintessential Southern California industrial neighborhood: a simple cluster of ordinary looking concrete buildings set off by sidewalks and landscaping.

At least from the outside.

After years of using highly toxic chemicals in the manufacture of printed circuit boards, the site at 1261 Logan Ave. is laden with enough heavy metals, solvents and other contaminants to be placed on the state's $100-million Superfund cleanup list.

Of 423 sites on the state's list, 10 locations in Orange County have been identified as hazardous or abandoned toxic waste sites, including one added last week, a Westminster housing tract built on an abandoned oil industry waste pit.

The state plans to spend an estimated $29.1 million on cleanup in the county over the next 15 to 20 years, said Robert Borzelleri, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services' toxic control division. That figure, Borzelleri said, does not include any cleanup costs to be paid by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for major hazardous sites and military bases.

The list includes such widely publicized sites as the abandoned McColl dump in Fullerton and an Anaheim auto salvage yard that contains a 50,000-ton mound of shredded automobile remnants contaminated with toxic levels of PCBs, a suspected carcinogen.

But also included are such little-known sites as Metropolitan Circuits and a wood-molding manufacturer in the City of Orange. Although state health officials say residents who live near these sites have little to worry about, some city officials and residents expressed surprise at learning of these sites within their borders.

Delays and deletions of sites on the list have caused some surprise and confusion to city officials in Huntington Beach and Orange.

"Continental Moulding is on the plan? I don't think we knew that," said John Loertscher, sanitation supervisor for the City of Orange, who also is in charge of monitoring potentially toxic sites in that city.

Continental Moulding, a 12-acre former wood-molding production plant, operated near the corner of Batavia Street and Taft Avenue for 30 years. The site had been contaminated with highly toxic pentachlorophenol (PCP), a chemical wood preservative used on door jamb moldings to protect against mildew. It has since been cleaned, but it remains on the Superfund list as an open case while the state seeks recovery of cleanup costs, state health officials said.

In Huntington Beach, City Engineer Les Evans said he was caught off guard recently after being told incorrectly by a co-worker that three hazardous sites, not one, as he believed, existed within the city's borders.

"I found that out recently. It was the first time I had heard of the two other sites being on the list," Evans said.

Actually, according to state health officials, only Ascon Landfill, a 37-acre former dump at 21641 Magnolia St., remains on the state Superfund list. Industrial and oil field wastes were disposed at the site from 1938 to 1971. It is now ringed by expensive homes.

Court Order

A Superior Court judge recently ordered the former landfill operators to partially clean up the site by capping a pit. The landfill was closed in 1984.

But Evans and city planning officials admitted there is some confusion on the city's part over two former sites--the Bruce Brothers Pit at 7212 Talbert Ave. and an old sand quarry at Taylor Drive and Golden West Street. Although the two were bought by the city in 1972, filled and turned into parks, both were included by a local realty board in a recent widely circulated notice about hazardous waste sites, they said.

"I have no idea how we get those things off the list," Evans said.

In the Westminster tract that is the most recent Orange County addition to the state Superfund list, Debra Ellis and other residents have expressed concern about the environmental danger of a tarlike toxic sludge that has seeped into their backyards and swimming pools. But she was pleased that her neighborhood had made the list.

"Even if it takes five years or so to clean this up, it's still good news. We're happy that we're included on the list," Ellis said.

Property Values Fell

Yet, once the sludge was determined to be toxic and gained widespread attention, "property values fell by about $15,000 to $20,000," said one real estate agent knowledgeable with Westminster property values. "Quite frankly, living near any identified hazardous waste site on the (Superfund) list is not good," said the agent, who asked not to be identified.

Knowing about Superfund sites is extremely important to the county's estimated 11,000 agents and brokers, who are legally required to disclose any material fact affecting the value of a property, said Judy Severy, vice president for public affairs of the Board of Realtors of Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley.

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