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More Buried Toxics Found Near School in Torrance

February 25, 1988|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

Workers have unearthed a fourth pit containing toxic substances that were illegally buried at a Torrance Unified School District maintenance yard next to an elementary school in southeast Torrance, a county health official said this week.

Anastacio Medina, a hazardous materials supervisor for the county Department of Health Services, said soil in the pit is saturated with odoriferous liquid solvents, apparently poured into the ground by school district maintenance employees over a period of years. Tests will be made to determine the exact nature of the solvents.

The illegal dumping was brought to the attention of school trustees and health officials by district employees earlier this month.

After the dumping was reported, workers for a private firm, hired by the school district, dug up an assortment of drums and other containers in three other pits at the yard between the Torrance Elementary School and Charles Wilson Park.

Substances there included paint, solvents, formaldehyde and discarded biological specimens, apparently from high school labs, Medina said.

Medina said Tuesday that workers have completed their two-week search at the small yard and the next step for the district is to formulate a plan for removing the toxic materials, possibly during the Easter vacation in early April.

After the materials are removed, holes will be bored at the site to determine whether any of the toxics seeped into ground water supplies. Health officials do not know yet if the dumping has contaminated ground water in the area.

Medina said the small amount of toxics at the maintenance yard poses no health threat to school children and other people in the immediate neighborhood. When the materials are dug up and trucked away, he said workers will take "extraordinary precautions" to ensure that contaminants are not released into the air.

School officials have condemned the unauthorized use of school property for disposing of wastes, saying that district policy calls for hiring licensed companies to handle any potentially hazardous substances. Both the school district and the district attorney's office are investigating the case.

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