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School Parcel Found to Be Contaminated


A 41-acre parcel of land that Oxnard officials are looking to purchase for a school and a park has been found to be contaminated with DDT and other agricultural pesticides.

A consulting firm hired by the Rio School District, which plans to lease part of the land from the city for a school, discovered residue from pesticides used to grow strawberries--including DDT--on the property three weeks ago, said Gary Mortimer, director of school facilities.

The school district plans to have the consultant, Earth Systems of Ventura, examine the land more thoroughly to determine the extent of contamination, Mortimer said.

The analysis is expected to take 30 to 40 days, he said.

The parcel is part of the city project that includes swapping 20 acres for adjacent land to build a low-cost housing development.

Oxnard City Atty. Gary Gillig said city officials had been unaware of the contamination because they had not received an environmental report from owner Donald T. Kojima as required by their contract of sale.

Gillig said he was not surprised or concerned by the discovery because pesticide use was very common in the area.

"This to me is routine," he said. "If the property has been farmed, I would be surprised if it wasn't there. The cleanup in my opinion of that substance is very feasible."

Gillig added that he doesn't expect the finding of pesticides to further delay the already protracted negotiations. Kojima will be required to pay for any possible cleanup before the sale is completed, Gillig said.

Kojima, who Mortimer said is aware of the contamination, could not be reached for comment Monday.

His property has been the center of a bitter dispute since city officials pledged to move farm workers out of a slum and into city-subsidized housing two years ago.

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