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New Site to Store Toxic Jet Fuel Sought : Military: The Pentagon has resisted shutting down the supply center near a residential neighborhood.

November 20, 1994|JOHN CANALIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Defense Department is investigating alternatives to storing toxic jet fuel at a military supply depot near a residential neighborhood in Norwalk, a department official said.

Vice Adm. Edward M. Straw said defense representatives will ask operators of area refineries if they would be willing to produce, store and transfer fuel. Straw revealed the inquiry in a letter to Rep. Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente), who has urged the Pentagon to close the depot.

Despite pleas from neighbors, the Pentagon has resisted shutting down the Norwalk supply center, which is accessible to the Santa Fe Pacific Pipeline, a key delivery route to several military bases throughout the West.

Finding oil companies to bid on the contract, however, could be difficult. "Our problem has been that refiners with access to the Santa Fe Pacific Pipeline have not offered to sell us enough jet fuel to meet our requirements without the use of Norwalk," Straw's letter stated.

Lt. Col. Charles Gross, commander of a defense fuel supply facility in San Pedro, said the companies have been uninterested in the contract because it may not be as lucrative as other orders. Another official said crowded Los Angeles pumping stations would slow fuel shipments to the bases.

Straw's correspondence came in response to a Torres letter in September asking Defense Secretary William J. Perry to replace the 50-acre facility at Norwalk Boulevard and Excelsior Drive.

Residents and city officials have argued for years that the fuel stored at the facility, which was built in the 1920s, poses health risks and has decreased nearby property values. The depot can store 36 million gallons of fuel. The military has stated repeatedly that health risks are minimal to nonexistent.

Regardless of the negotiations with the refiners, defense officials said in a recent meeting with Torres, Norwalk city officials and residents that the department is stepping up efforts to decontaminate soil and ground water tainted by fuel leaks from the depot.

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