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Water Pollution Delays Shopping Center Work


MAYWOOD — Ground water contamination has been discovered beneath the site of a proposed shopping center, indefinitely postponing construction of the project, which is designed to complete redevelopment of the city's main intersection.

Workers found gasoline in four wells at the northwest corner of Slauson Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard, the former site of a Self Oil gasoline station. The gasoline apparently leaked from the station's storage tanks into water 20 feet below ground level, but did not pollute drinking water sources at 100 feet and below, Maywood Planning Director Ron Lindsey said.

Watt Commercial Development Corp. cannot go ahead with construction of a 47,000-square-foot shopping center on the 3.75-acre property until the ground water has been cleaned, Lindsey said. The city plans to drill five more wells to find the extent of the contamination, he said.

The Watt project, supported by the city and a low-interest county loan, would include an auto parts store, a fast-food restaurant and other retail shops. It would be the last of the four corners at Slauson and Atlantic to be developed with small shopping centers.

The city formed its Redevelopment Agency in 1982 and began planning the rebirth of Slauson and Atlantic after a study showed that most of the city's 27,000 residents went elsewhere to shop.

"We are trying to plug that leak," Lindsey said.

Watt officials said they still hope to build the shopping center, although it could cost as much as $250,000 over five years to clean the ground water.

"Hopefully, we can still go forward with the project," said Alice Wang, chief financial officer for Watt Family Properties Inc. "Almost every developer has to deal with toxic waste problems these days. If the project does not pencil out (financially), though, there is nothing we can do about it."

The developer received a boost from the county this week, when the Board of Supervisors extended for one year the period that Watt has to repay a low-interest loan.

The $2.3-million loan at 7.5% interest, originally due for repayment next month, has been extended to Oct. 7, 1991. County officials said they offered the low-interest rate to attract development to the low-income community, which previously had not been popular with builders.

The supervisors unanimously approved the loan extension Tuesday.

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